Headlines and news clips announcing new drug epidemics and the increasing need for both treatment centers and mental health care can be seen nearly every day in newspapers and various news websites, both local and national.
But for some people, the headlines are more than words on a page — it’s a reality faced every day with loved ones and communities being dragged down under the weight of addiction.
Vicki Niemann, a longtime Key Peninsula resident, has been facing the realities of drug and alcohol addictions, combined with mental health issues, for years with family members.
“It’s been ongoing for quite some time,” Niemann said. “It’s put on a lot of stress, especially these last few years.”
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For the last several years Niemann has supported family members during the highs and lows of drug addiction and treatment. She has set up counseling sessions and admission to different treatment centers, only to have her hopes frequently dashed as try after try ends in failure.
The biggest obstacle is often gaining admission to the always crowded treatment centers throughout Washington state, with many seeking treatment ending up on a waitlist for the next available spot.
If somebody really wants to get into treatment you really need to get them in now and not put them on a waiting list. A lot of people think they can get well on their own, they don’t need (treatment). But drugs are powerful.
Vicki Niemann, Key Peninsula resident
“If somebody really wants to get into treatment, you really need to get them in now and not put them on a waiting list,” Niemann said. “A lot of people think they can get well on their own, they don’t need (treatment). But drugs are powerful.”
Niemann sees similar issues mirrored throughout the families in her community on the Key Peninsula, where access to treatment and medical care is distant and often hard to reach.
“(Addiction is) everywhere you look,” she said. “We need to help these people.”
Helping families and individuals struggling with addiction issues is exactly the goal Jeremiah Saucier has been working toward.
Saucier, the director of Crossroads Treatment Center in Lakewood, is a Key Peninsula resident, counselor and recovering addict with a plan to build a treatment center on the Key Peninsula. Called Hope Recovery Center, Saucier’s plan features a 50-bed in-patient treatment center, with services for outpatient treatment and support for families and the community.
“This is definitely my vision but there’s a team (that’s) just awesome out of our community that’s pulling together to make this happen,” Saucier said. “We’re serious, and this isn’t some kind of setup to go out there and get rich.”
Local supporters endorsing the project include Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist, former state Rep. Larry Seaquist, Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor, state Rep. Jesse Young, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and more.
The need for this treatment center is apparent to Saucier, not only in his current work at Crossroads but also as a Key Peninsula resident who frequently finds used needles during his runs along main roads and near public schools.
You don’t tell an addict to keep coming back. In this realm that we work in, we try to help as many people as we can and we get kind of frustrated because working with the state insurance because people aren’t getting the help when they need it...We take each person as individual. It’s not cookie cutter.
Jeremiah Saucier, Hope Recovery Center
Distance and transportation are obstacles for many seeking treatment for drug and alcohol from the Key Peninsula.
The nearest treatment center available is the Olalla Recovery Centers, otherwise Key Peninsula residents must travel to Port Orchard or Tacoma for treatment, a daunting prospect for individuals in a fragile mindset and frequently without reliable transportation.
Saucier’s goal for Hope Recovery Center is to create a flexible program that can be tailored to help the individual needs of people coming for help, allowing them to stay for treatment for as long as they need it.
“You don’t tell an addict to keep coming back,” Saucier said. “In this realm that we work in, we try to help as many people as we can, and we get kind of frustrated working with the state insurance because people aren’t getting the help when they need it ... we take each person as individual. It’s not cookie cutter.”
Hope Recovery Center has been a brainchild of Saucier’s since 2015, and he is beginning to take his first steps toward making that dream a reality with a strong support group of community and political figures who have endorsed the project. The first step of the project is securing a location on the Key Peninsula, ideally with room to grow in order to meet a wide range of social support and needs, including mental health services and access to education and job training.
“We can clean them up and brush them off and send them out there, but if we can’t deal with the issues behind their (addiction), then we’re missing the mark,” Saucier said. “The goal of Hope Recovery Center is to deal with as many issues as possible.”
Fundraising efforts and community outreach are currently underway by Saucier and supporters of Hope Recovery Center, with a Guns-N-Hoses charity softball game, followed by a spaghetti dinner and auction, set as the first fundraising event for Saturday (July 23).
We can clean them up and brush them off and send them out there but if we can’t deal with the issues behind there then we’re missing the mark. The goal of Hope Recovery Center is to deal with as many issues as possible.
“It’ll be local law enforcement against the local fire department, so we’re excited about that,” Saucier said of the donations-only event.
Firefighters from Key Peninsula Fire District 16 will be participating in the softball game and standing by in case of injuries or illness for softball players and event guests alike, said Fire Chief Guy Allen.
“It sounds like it should be a pretty fun day for a great cause,” Allen said.
The need for drug treatment centers and mental health care is something that is apparent to firefighter crews, said Allen, who frequently respond to calls surrounding these issues.
“I think you can connect the dots between substance abuse and mental health issues,” he said. “We run many of those calls every year between mental health and substance abuse, and many times it’s connected.”
Allen, like many throughout the Key Peninsula and in communities beyond, has dealt with family members caught in the cross hairs of drug addiction and recognizes the importance that treatment facilities play in the recovery of these individuals.
“I think most people can draw some sort of personal connection to these issues,” Allen said. “It’s really sad to watch people throw everything away —family, friends, and continue down this road of self destruction until they hit rock bottom.”
There’s an opinion out there by most people that ‘yes we need those things but not in our backyard,’ because there’s a concern that the environment around them because degraded by the clientele. The harsh reality is we need those facilities everywhere. We need facilities that are willing to be treated beyond where the insurance companies are willing to go.
Guy Allen, Fire Chief of Key Peninsula Fire District 16
Emergency rooms are impacted by the mental health and substance abuse patients because there’s often no where else for those individuals to go for treatment, he said.
“There’s an opinion out there by most people that ‘yes, we need those things but not in our backyard,’ because there’s a concern that the environment around them becomes degraded by the clientele,” Allen said. “The harsh reality is we need those facilities everywhere. We need facilities that are willing to be treated beyond where the insurance companies are willing to go.”
Niemann, though new to the support efforts for Hope Recovery Center, is optimistic about having treatment options nearby for her family members seeking help.
“I wish so much that this is going to happen for the peninsula, because we need it,” she said. “You can’t put your head in the sand and say we don’t really have a problem because it’s not true.”
Saucier is straightforward about the need for Hope Recovery Center on the Key Peninsula.
“This is my passion. You have to get the addict out of the way so the human being can live,” he said. “Where’s the dollar sign that tells you how much value to put onto (a person’s) life? I haven’t found it.”
Hope Recovery Center fundraising and outreach event
The Guns-N-Hoses Charity Softball Game will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday (July 23) at Volunteer Park, 5514 Key Peninsula Hwy, North Lakebay.
A spaghetti dinner, featuring live music and an art auction and silent auction, will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday (July 23) at the Key Peninsula Civic Center, 17010 Vaughn Road, KPN in Vaughn.
For more information about Hope Recovery Center or to reach Jeremiah Saucier, visit hope-recovery.org.