Last year, 11.4 million Americans aged 12 or older reported misusing opioids.
Drug addiction is an issue that affects everyone, even here at home. In Pierce County, from 2007 to 2017, the number of opioid-related deaths rose to 833. The Orting Valley, which includes Sumner, Puyallup, Bonney Lake, Buckley, and Eatonville, has witnessed an acute problem of addiction for a long time, but in 2017, after a series of fatal overdoses, the community realized it was time for change.
After a year of planning and preparation, recovery has finally come to communities in East Pierce County. The weekend before Thanksgiving, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the grand opening of the Recovery Café Orting Valley. The event kicked off with speakers whose support has been key to this project, then was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an open house tour with refreshments, food, love, and laughter.
Recovery Cafés are based on a model of building relationships, compassion and support. They help men and women who are traumatized by homelessness, addiction, and other mental health challenges. It is a refuge for hope and healing that started in Seattle and now Orting is the most recent addition. People who want to seek help from Recovery Café must become members and be clean and sober for at least 24 hours.
Killian Noe, Founder of Recovery Café, says that “one of the most important lifelines at the heart of this recovery café is the deep understanding that everyone that comes here will be a contributor to the healing of others.” Recovery cafés are different from traditional human service agencies because members don’t just come to receive services, they come to receive and give.
“All over the US, in every town and city, there are people that have fallen into holes. The hole of addiction, depression, other mental health challenges. The holes of loneliness, isolation. When several people overdosed, instead of being paralyzed by the pain, you allowed it to mobilize you. You leaned into the pain and crawled into the hole and through your broken hearts, this amazing, compassionate, loving, healing, response has been given.” -Killian Noe
And boy, are there ways to give back! Members can work in the community garden, engage in recovery circles, and help support others through training programs. At the event, I met so many people who were selflessly donating their time and energy to celebrate this milestone. That service mentality is a direct reflection of the Recovery Café model.
Dennis Paschke, the Executive Director of Recovery Café Orting Valley, has lived experience and began his own journey to recovery 15 years ago. He describes the aftermath of the pain felt by the Orting community after the string of fatal overdoes in 2017 as a transformation. “When our hearts were broken, we came together. There is this power of transformation that rises up within us and allows something like this to happen. Today is about opening doors of a place of unconditional love and acceptance and hospitality. And where people wrestling with addiction will find a place where they belong.”
Across our state we are seeing the terrible effects of heroin and prescription narcotics on our families, friends and communities. I think we all know somebody that is affected by drug addiction. The statistics are staggering, but there are people out there who need our support and want help. It can take time to rise out of the darkness and overcome tragedy, and what the people in the Orting Valley have demonstrated through the opening of this café is nothing short of amazing.
“Today is a great day for everybody who has been stigmatized, judged, called ‘those people’ or not been given a place at the table. Today is a great day because in this valley we open the doors of a place that’s a refuge of healing and hope that undeniably has changed lives of many, many people.” – Dennis Paschke
Now, people in the area suffering from drug addiction will have resources that are close to home, without having to travel far for treatment. I am confident that the Recovery Café in Orting, though smaller in size and membership, will be as strong as its counterparts in Tacoma, Seattle and beyond. What I’ve found at other recovery cafes is that people do matter, and people are truly loved. I can see that.
Lives and families will be saved from the devastation of addiction because of this place. All human beings are precious, worthy of love and belonging, and deserve opportunities to fulfill their potential regardless of past trauma, mental or emotional anguish, addictive behaviors, and mistakes they’ve made. At recovery café, the community fosters stability, healing and recovery. Without ongoing support, the challenge to maintain stability, mental health, employment, relationships, housing, and breaking cycles of destruction is nearly impossible.
I look forward to better things to come.
Recovery Café Orting Valley is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. It is located at 113 Varner Avenue SE in Orting, behind the United Methodist Church. For more information, contact 360-208-8018.