Where can people struggling with substance abuse in Sonoma County go to get help? And who will provide it? Just some of the questions being raised after Athena House, the thirty-three year-old treatment center in Santa Rosa, closed its doors in July.
For Jasmine Palmer, a former patient at Athena House, its closure will leave a large void.
“Our county is number three in the state for the most fatal overdoses…so this population, they need more services," Palmer told KRCB News. "And it’s near and dear to my heart because I went through the program in 2011, and I know what it’s done for me and I’ve seen lots of other women have their lives changed because of it. And currently we have no treatment facilities…for anybody struggling that needs help…people have to go out of county.”
Buckelew, a nonprofit that provides mental health and substance abuse services for the North Bay, has stepped in to support Palmer with fundraising. According to Patricia Gallagher, Buckelew’s chief philanthropy officer, they may try to fill the void Athena left.
"We know what works to keep people on this journey to recovery and we believe an expansion in Sonoma would be logical for us, and we are exploring options there,” Gallagher said.
Even with Buckelew’s support, Palmer said finding financial support has been challenging.
A lot of people want to help, but to purchase a location, it’s going to take more private donors, which we don’t have at this point," Palmer said. "We’re probably around twenty thousand dollars that we’ve raised, but that’s not even a drop in the bucket for what we need to purchase a location.”
Money problems are also the reason Athena shuttered its doors. Thomas Steubner is the CEO of California Human Development, the organization that ran Athena House.
“Well, there’s really only one reason [for the closure] and that’s entirely financial," Steubner saidl. "So it’s a basic thing that expenses far exceeded the revenue that we had coming in.”
Palmer remains optimistic about the future, and hopes the community will rally around Athena.
“A lot of the community, they don’t know the situation we’re in, so I just hope that more people know what’s going on and show interest," Palmer said. "Because I think it’s going to take a village to make any sort of changes.”