Meet Gretta

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People CAN Change

Gretta* had many run-ins with law enforcement as she was engaging in criminal activity to support her addiction. After a few years, she was finally charged and served jail time.

Her first contact with Pioneer Human Services was through Whatcom Community Detox in Bellingham. Pioneer operates the detox center that provides a monitored setting for the safe withdrawal from alcohol and other drugs. The detoxification is provided in a sub-acute (non-medical) unit where intensive medical monitoring is not required. In addition to stabilization and safety, the goal of these services is to assess people’s mental health and substance use disorder-related needs and help them access the services they need to recover.

While at the detox center, staff recommended that Gretta enter Pioneer Center East (PCE) in Spokane through an ITA – Involuntary Treatment Act referral. PCE provides semi-secure, long-term residential treatment for people who battle chronic substance use disorder. At PCE, she was able to really work on her substance use disorder with professionals and talk about her issues in peer groups. For the first time, she really learned the steps and skills needed for recovery and what was needed to maintain sobriety.

She completed the program at PCE and remained clean and sober for a while, but unfortunately several months later after her release she relapsed. Her life took a downward spiral after that as she became homeless and ended up staying in a homeless camp. While living at the camp she was surrounded by other individuals struggling with addiction and she overdosed. Paramedics were called and rushed her to the hospital as she was barely alive. After being stabilized at the hospital she came back to Whatcom Community Detox and was placed on the Medically Assisted Opioid Taper Program (MAOTP).

While she was in the MAOTP program, Gretta expressed concern about her possessions she had left in the homeless camp. John, a concerned “on call” employee at Whatcom Community Detox generously offered to accompany Gretta and took her to the camp so she could retrieve her belongings safely.

Through the case manager for the MAOTP, the staff at Whatcom was able to use flex funds to place Gretta in a clean and sober house and get her set up for services in outpatient treatment. She moved into the clean and sober house after detox and was case managed by Whatcom Detox’s MAOTP case manager for six months.

Gretta excelled in the MAOTP program and in her recovery and she decided to further her education to be able to secure a job. In the summer quarter of 2013, she started her education at Whatcom Community College. Two years later, she graduated with honors as a paralegal. Her graduation ceremony was held at Civic Field within just a few hundred feet from the homeless camp where she had previously overdosed and almost died. 

Currently, she is working as a successful paralegal. She is also able to finally be the mother to her two children that she has always wanted to be but struggled with, due to her addiction. To this day, Gretta is still fully engaged in her recovery program and able to give back to many women in her AA recovery group. She is one of Pioneer’s shining stars and proof that people CAN change with the right services and a little care.

*Gretta's real name and identity has been protected for her privacy.