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Keeping The Meeting Place a safe (and free) space

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There are myriad reasons people don’t successfully obtain treatment for substance abuse and addiction, according to the 2016 Garfield County Community Needs Assessment. Chief among them are lack of access and cost prohibitions.

The Meeting Place at 981 Cowen Dr. seeks to ease those burdens. Just as the name suggests, it offers a safe space for recovery groups to meet.

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“People can come together in whatever fellowships or recovery groups that they wish. We leave that very broadly open,” Daniel Benavent, who serves on the board, said. “Otherwise, it’s hard to find a place. You can find some churches, but the requirements for the time and availability are very stringent.”

In order to be truly accessible, of course, The Meeting Place must also be affordable — and that’s not easy in an area where square footage commands especially high rents.

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“We allow the groups that meet there to make contributions, but we don’t charge them a set rent amount,” he said. “The meetings only cover a portion of our rent.”

That rent increased 10 percent in January this year, adding an almost $100 monthly financial burden to an organization run entirely by volunteers.

To make up the difference, The Meeting Place board of directors and volunteers rely on fundraising efforts, such as the organization’s upcoming picnic from 12 – 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 23.

“Outside the area, there’s a little yard there. We’re going to have grills and food and cornhole and things like that. The Meeting Place of course will be open the entire time,” he said, adding that the picnic is the next in what he called an event series.

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Event-based fundraising serves more than just the organization; it also keeps with its mission of providing a safe space, especially during social holidays that often tend to be alcohol centric.

“We were open on New Year’s Eve past midnight and we were open on Halloween, which is also providing an alternative, sober environment for people seeking it on what might be triggering social events,” he said.

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In Garfield County, 18.3 percent of the self-reporting adult population qualifies as an excessive drinker, compared to 17.6 percent in Colorado and 16.4 percent nationally. The State of Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force reports alcohol as the primary substance of abuse in the Valley, followed by methamphetamines and marijuana, respectively.

Benavent once counted himself among those statistics, and his subsequent recovery was a major inspiration for his involvement with The Meeting Place.

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“I live here in the Valley; I am in recovery; I work in the nonprofit sector myself,” the Theatre Aspen general manager said. “So I felt this is a very, very worthwhile and important undertaking, and I want to contribute.”

Trick or treatment

Though anonymity is an important aspect of gatherings at the Cowen Drive location, The Meeting Place makes its calendar readily available on its website (meetingplacecarbondale.org), and anyone interested in reserving the space need only use the contact form.

“The schedule’s open; we welcome anybody who needs that place, whether it be a large group or just a small group that’s doing recovery or spiritual work,” Benavent said.

While The Meeting Place does not offer direct care, it’s still a vital part of the larger recovery community. Jaywalker Lodge, one of the largest addiction treatment facilities in the Roaring Fork Valley, even made a sizeable donation to help bolster the coffers.

“Our support for that space is just purely donation to support the recovery community and what happens there, whether our guys are there or not,” Pat Shaffer, Jaywalker Chief of Admissions and Marketing, said.

As for someone seeking treatment, Shaffer explained that it’s best to consult with an expert. Many online search results lead to paid directories that collect and subsequently sell users’ information.

“We consider [it] a highly unethical way to do patient referrals,” he said. “Google’s probably about the worst place to try to find a quality treatment referral because of what that landscape looks like.”

For people wanting a more trustworthy online resource, Shaffer suggests the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (naatp.org).

“That’s an organization that’s based on ethical treatment and what that should look like,” he said.

And Jaywalker itself serves as another Carbondale-based resource, as its admission process starts with a personal consultation to determine a potential patient’s needs.

“Seventy percent of the calls we get we end up referring out based on information from the family or the client, what their experience has been and actually diving into the case with them,” he said. Even the cost of a program can vary, depending on insurance coverage and other factors, which is why Jaywalker also partners with A Way Out in Aspen.

“They’re fantastic with scholarshiping people. .. we do a bunch of work with them throughout the year in terms of fundraising and donation, too,” he said.

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