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Jaffrey agency expands to new substance misuse recovery center

JAFFREY — The plan came together in a matter of weeks — from the location to the financing, down to the large sign that announces the recovery support center downtown.

Reality Check Inc. founder Mary Drew celebrated the accomplishment Thursday morning in a modest ceremony with a handful of attendees, including community members and representatives from the town and state.

Reality Check, a nonprofit organization that supports people recovering from drug and alcohol misuse, started in 2016. The agency conducts drug and alcohol misuse prevention programs in local schools and also works with people seeking recovery through one-on-one counseling and support groups. Reality Check also trains recovery support coaches, drug and alcohol counselors, and more.

Until last month, Reality Check had a home at 45 Knight St. in Jaffrey. But on Dec. 1, the organization purchased a larger structure at 17 Turnpike Road. Drew calls the space a recovery community center.

The new center will enable Reality Check to expand its offerings to include more support groups, larger recovery-coach academies and other training events, she said.

Drew, of Jaffrey, has herself been in recovery from alcohol misuse since 2008. She said rural parts of the state need more access to recovery support services, and she established Reality Check because she said there were no other resources like it in town.

Among those in attendance Thursday were David Mara, Gov. Chris Sununu’s adviser on addiction and behavioral health; N.H. Sen. Jeanne A. Dietsch, D-Peterborough; and Jon Frederick, Jaffrey’s town manager.

Mara, who helped Drew secure funds from the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative, said Reality Check is part of a much-needed grassroots effort to help mitigate the effects of the state’s drug and alcohol misuse crisis. These efforts, he said, should include as many organizations as possible, from town and state government to nonprofit groups.

New Hampshire is in the midst of a drug epidemic. The state forecasts that 437 drug overdose deaths will be tallied in New Hampshire by the end of 2018, which would represent a 10.5 percent drop from last year’s 488. If the projection holds, 2018 would mark the first decrease in fatal overdoses since 2012.

The Turnpike Road property used to be Renoir Renovations, a bath and kitchen remodeling store. But the former owner closed the business and moved to Florida, according to Drew. The recovery support organization now occupies the first floor of the two-story house and has two meeting rooms, a kitchen and an office for Drew. The second floor is an apartment, Drew said, and rent from the tenants who live there will help her cover a portion of the mortgage.

For the down payment, she used a $30,000 donation from the Manchester-based Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative of New Hampshire. Rx Abuse Leadership is a coalition of community leaders, health care associations, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, among others. Luann Lafreniere of Jaffrey and her fiancé, Bob Sourek, donated an additional $20,000.

Lafreniere, who has a loved one in recovery from opioid addiction, said supporting Reality Check felt right. Before she committed to helping Drew, Lafreniere considered buying the property so it could be used as a sober-living house for people seeking a stable environment after completing short-term residential rehabilitation programs. And when she and Sourek heard Drew was also looking at the property, Lafreniere said she contemplated buying it and renting it to Drew. Eventually, Lafreniere said, the couple decided it would be best to help Drew with the down payment and look for another location in downtown Jaffrey for their sober house.

Resources like sober living and Reality Check, Lafreniere said, are especially important in small towns, where stigma still prevails and routes to recovery are not necessarily clear.

“In a little town like this, there’s a lot of stigma attached still (to drug misuse and recovery),” she said. “... But it’s necessary.”

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