By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
At A New Path, an addiction-recovery support organization in Carbondale, the first sight that greeted a recent visitor was a tabletop lined with ornate gingerbread houses, of the kind one might expect to see at a Christmas bake sale.
But the tiny edible structures actually are part of the ongoing support and therapy offered by A New Path, which operates out of the Third Street Center and is part of a growing trend in the addiction-recovery community nationwide.
Pointing to the gingerbread houses, and a photo of a recent Christmas dinner for the clients, A New Path’s director, Stefan Bate, told The Sopris Sun during a recent interview, “We try to make a big deal out of the holidays, because holidays can be a tough time for the guys. Some of the guys told us this is the best holiday they’ve ever had.”
And when he says “the guys,” Bate is not engaging in any kind of linguistic gender bias, because the clientele of A New Path is strictly men.
A New Path, which has programs and offices in Carbondale and in San Rafael, Calif., was founded by Frankie Grundler and Rob Mockley, two members of the Roaring Fork Valley’s surprisingly large recovering community who went through the Jaywalker Lodge recovery programs in Carbondale about a decade ago.
The two founded A New Path after they graduated from Jaywalker and realized there was a lack of comprehensive, long-term recovery-support programs for people in their particular circumstance, Bate explained.
They concluded that, for many recovering addicts and alcoholics, the standard treatment route leaves them ill-equipped to deal with the same pressures and frustrations that led them to drugs or alcohol in the first place, which means that many end up trapped in a yo-yo pattern of treatment, falling off the wagon and getting back into drugs and alcohol, followed by another round of treatment.
So, Grundler, who had a background in corporate business management, and Mockley, with an IT consulting portfolio under his belt, “decided to take a good hard look at why” so many were relapsing and going right back to the bottle or the needle, Bate said.
The two quickly concluded that help in developing the skills and knowledge to make it in life was what was lacking in many treatment programs, which mostly focused on detoxing the drunk or the addict, offering counseling to help them through the first spasms of recovery, then released them back into society.
So the two created A New Path to offer a variety of support services designed to help recovering alcoholics and drug addicts to stay on course with their recovery, once they have been through the initial phases of getting off drugs and alcohol.
The organization’s basic mission, Bate continued, consists mainly of helping clients develop a new set of what Bate called “core life skills” that the recovering addicts probably had lacked before they got hooked on booze or drugs as a way of dealing with their frustrations.
These skills can range from such mundane concerns as how to manage their personal finances or how to apply for a job, to any of a number of skills that Bate said are needed by everyone in figuring out “how to engage life.”
Not a straight path
Bate, who is 35 and an admitted recovering addict, has been with A New Path for about four years, though he did not come to that job along any kind of straight path.
He said he has been clean and sober for nine years, having gone through several addiction recovery programs including the Jaywalker Lodge program in Carbondale in 2007.
A former banker from Denver, he recalled coming to Carbondale to kick his addictions and then working at a few lower-level jobs before returning to Denver and getting back into banking “once I felt I was stable enough.”
But in 2010, he said, he decided banking was no longer for him.
“It had never been a passion of mine,” he explained, adding that he had a bachelor’s degree in psychology already, and that he took classes in Regis University to obtain a master’s degree psychology with a focus on counseling.
While he was working toward his second degree, he also went to work managing two group homes for Aspen Valley Sober Living, a residential continuing care home here in the Roaring Fork Valley, and worked part-time as a barista at The Blend, a coffee shop that briefly was run by Jaywalker Lodge before it closed down last year.
Ultimately, he said, A New Path offered him the job of directing its programs, and he jumped at it. He now manages an organization that has 15 residential “slots” in four group homes scattered around Carbondale. A New Path typically has 10-30 clients at a time, and Bate estimated it has worked with somewhere around 400 people in its five years of existence.
A full spectrum
Bate said A New Path started out with a less extensive program than it now offers, limited to life-skills classes and training, back when it was conceived and put into practice by its founders.
But over time, the range of programs has grown, Bate reported — as has the cost of participating in them.
The cost of getting help from A New Path is about $8,600 for what Bate said was the full spectrum of programs and services:
• living in the organization’s group home, or “inspired living home” as it is called by staff and the clientele, with a variety of support services that come with the residential program;
• submitting to a drug-testing and monitoring program that has been shown to increase the likelihood of success in seeking to stay clean and sober, and that statistics show has decreased the rate of relapse among addicts and alcoholics;
• training in the “life skills” arena;
• continuing counseling and therapy;
• and group activities designed to foster feelings of camaraderie among the clients.
While these kinds of services often are available in urban areas or places with a high number of addicts and treatment options, they typically are offered separately and not part of a coordinated program, Bate said.
At A New Path, Bate noted, clients can sign up for the full spectrum of programs or parts of it, with a corresponding drop in the fees to be paid.
Bate also reported that insurance companies, which at one time would not cover programs such as those offered by A New Path, now do so in many areas.
A large part of that shift, Bate said, was passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which required that the health insurance industry jettison its historical refusal to cover addiction treatment programs and offer coverage on parity with coverage provided for other medical conditions or surgery.
Plus, Bate said, A New Path offers scholarships in some cases, working in conjunction with another addiction-recovery support group in the valley, A Way Out, run by long-time valley resident Liz Means of Aspen, to come up with the scholarship money.
They emphasized the evolution of the thinking in the treatment community, which once focused almost entirely on getting clean and sober, “which is good, but not good enough. We also have to develop a life that’s worth staying clean and sober for.”
Published in The Sopris Sun on January 7, 2016.