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Nonprofit provides haven for women seeking recovery from substance abuse
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Nonprofit provides haven for women seeking recovery from substance abuse

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Clients of The Haven, which provides woman-focused recovery for those with substance use disorders and mental health challenges, enjoyed a recent outing at Fort Lowell Park. The facility offers residential and outpatient services and welcomes in-kind donations of household items and furniture as well as monetary donations.

Tucson has its very own haven just for women struggling with substance use disorders and mental health challenges.

The nonprofit, The Haven, has been providing woman-focused recovery for 51 years with an exponential impact on the community.

“Keep in mind that for every woman who we help, about four other people — children, spouses, parents — are helped, so think about the exponential growth factor,” said Margaret Higgins, Ph.D., executive director of The Haven. “Additionally, when a woman comes for treatment and she brings her child, it helps to break the intergenerational cycle of substance use disorder for that child and that child’s children. It is amazing when you think about it.”

The nonprofit offers a 54-bed residential facility along with intensive outpatient and outpatient treatments and is unusual in that it utilizes a holistic approach while also allowing children to accompany their mothers in the residential facility.

The women represent diverse socio-economic levels, backgrounds, cultures and races — including many Native Americans. Many are referred to The Haven from hospitals or other community agencies, while others are self-referrals. Some are new mothers, while others have older children. The Haven also accepts pregnant mothers; many “Haven babies” have been born while their mothers are in treatment at the residential facility.

“There are many reasons that it is beneficial for a mother to have her children with her: Primarily, she can better focus on her recovery if she isn’t worried about her children. Also, some come from a negative home environment where they don’t want to leave their children and sometimes, for single mothers, there is no other alternative,” said Higgins.

The holistic “whole body” approach is the foundation of the program, according to Higgins. In addition to intensive therapy with masters-level therapists, the Haven offers Reiki and yoga classes; Native American drumming and artistic work taught by Native American elders; and AcuDetox, a form of acupuncture used to treat addiction, trauma and stress.

“The goal is to improve the health of women so they can get their lives back together in a positive way. We want them to be able to return to society and be productive while looking after their children and families. Ideally, they will be able to pay it forward themselves by becoming productive taxpayers,” said Higgins.

To that end, The Haven can also assist women with attaining education and professional training. The organization recently received a $100,000 donation from the Stonewall Foundation to fund Reyn’s Fund in honor of the late Reyn Voevodsky. Reyn’s Fund is a scholarship for clients of The Haven.

“Reyn was a strong supporter of ours for many years, and she introduced us to Rick and Susan Small of the Stonewall Foundation. They want to support women’s initiatives and are champions of women and children. This is a scholarship for women who need funds for education, transportation and housing so they can continue to move forward in their lives,” said Higgins.

Higgins emphasized that in-kind donations and monetary contributions of all sizes are essential to the success of The Haven, which was hit hard on multiple fronts during the pandemic.

“Our staff is classed as essential workers, so we had to delicately navigate the needs of the staff and their families as well as the families we serve. We also had to reduce our capacity to follow social distancing requirements and provide women and staff with personal protective equipment. Additionally, we had to provide the clients in the intensive outpatient program with technology and train clients and our staff in the use of tele-therapy. It was very difficult, but we have moved past it to help more women in the community,” Higgins said.

Reflecting on the past 50 years and the future of The Haven, Higgins plans to continue to promote awareness about the fact that substance use disorders are not the result of a lapse in morals or character.

“Substance use disorder is recognized as a disease. We want to remove the stigma associated with substance use disorders and other mental health issues. The more the stigma is reduced, the more likely it is that people will seek help, which means it is more likely that they and their children will become healthy members of the community,” Higgins said.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net

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