Carly's House

Carly's House

Facing Recovery Challenges in a Rural Community with Carly's House

Cher Eberly’s hope is that moms walking out her door have more tools than they had walking in.

As program director of Carly’s House in Fort Morgan, Cher helps women in recovery. The women she works with tend to be on probation, having just come out of jail or intensive rehabilitation treatment (IRT).

Carly’s House offers women a voluntary, safe and sober space to live for a recommended 3-6 months, but it could be longer. It's the only residential sober living home in Colorado that provides level four treatment services through Centennial Mental Health Center. Residents receive in-house substance use disorder services, including visits with mental health providers, on-site urinalysis, and case management.

What makes Carly’s house truly unique is that in addition to its six beds, there’s also a crib.

“We allow women with children as long as we have enough beds for the kiddos,” Cher said.

Keeping moms connected with their children is important for healing and recovery. Many of the women seeking support at Carly’s House are working to gain custody through the Department of Human Services (DHS).

“Most of our women have DHS cases and are fighting for their kiddos,” she said.

Cher works closely with probation officers across the 10-county region served by Centennial Mental Health Center. She's been part of some amazing success stories of kids staying full-time at Carly's House. Once mom finds stability, many are able to find their own housing.

But housing, in general, is a challenge in this rural community. Section 8 housing is limited. Cher says that once people find an affordable place to stay, they don’t move.

Many of her residents are on waitlists for state-issued voucher programs. Recently one of her residents received a voucher, but she wasn’t ready to leave sober living. She turned down the opportunity and is now at the bottom of the list.

“One of the issues we all face is that it’s not just about recovery. It’s about are you ready to be on your own?”

Living by house rules

Residents of Carly’s house learn how to live together as a community. Before entering the program, residents must be abstinent from substances or have gone through withdrawal management. Once accepted, they are routinely tested for substances. The women must participate in staff-led group sessions, 1:1 therapy sessions, peer coaching, and case management.

Residents also need to be working or volunteering outside the home.

“I’m sure you’ve heard the saying about idle hands,” Cher said. Living at Carly’s House means living by a monitored schedule.

Residents of Carly’s House are also asked to manage house duties together. It’s an opportunity for them to work together toward a common goal and manage conflict in a safe setting. Cher finds herself helping them navigate typical roommate issues, like cleaning up after each other. Her first response is always “talk to them!” They may be hesitant at first, but they learn that things eventually escalate, so it’s best to be direct.

Supporting each other as peers

Cher sees the value of peer support every day. Peer support coaches work with residents in groups and individually.

As roommates, they learn how to support each other.

"Most of my clients know each other when they come in," Cher said. It's possible they used drugs together, or there may be animosity between them or their family members.

"In the beginning, they don't talk about their struggles as much. But once they have a little bit of recovery under their belt, this changes. They start opening up."

The experience of their peers also provides much-needed perspective.

Cher said it's hard for moms who have lost custody to be patient with the process.

"I hear, 'This is taking forever. I've been clean for two months and why aren't my kids living with me?'"

Cher is then able to share the experiences of other residents.

"I'll say, 'you know so-and-so that just moved out? They've been struggling for two years and just finally got temporary custody. You're two months in, and you're getting overnights.'"

Changing community perceptions

Cher is aware of the labels put on their program. Being in a rural, conservative community, many are opposed to medication-assisted therapy and the concept of harm reduction.

"That's not going over well in Fort Morgan, just let me tell you that."

But she has hope of shifting mindsets. One example is how receptive the men of the local Optimist Club were about Carly House's opening.

"I thought they'd be shut down. That they'd be saying 'why are we doing this?' But they were very open-minded. It surprised me."

She suspects it's because she shared the greater truths about addiction.

"It could be your coworker, your neighbor, your boss, or a friend who’s hiding stuff. Addiction doesn’t pick and choose. It’s there, and people need to open their eyes. Just because they might be going through their day looking like everything’s fine, a lot of stuff happens behind closed doors."

Measures of success

Due to confidentiality, Cher hesitates to share any specific success stories of the women she's helped. She understands the realities women in recovery face.

"I've had a couple of ladies that three times had their kids taken away, and the third time they got them back for good," she said.

Cher's idea of success is giving the women she works with tools for recovery—and beyond.

"If they can pay their rent, and be on their own and help others, that's what I consider a success story. I don't want to focus on just one because anybody that leaves here better than when they came in is a success story to me."

Carly’s House is an abstinence-based group living facility in which people in recovery work to support each other in an environment of stability, accountability and responsibility. Residents of the home benefit from the safe and supportive surroundings which facilitates personal growth and the nurturing of a recovery mindset.

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