From heroin to hope - Rising Strong

By Alexandra Gunnoe
Monday, January 20, 2020
Chantily, Rising Strong graduate, and her daughter


Chantilly was using drugs on and off throughout her pregnancy and relapsed three days before her delivery. When she gave birth to her daughter, they both tested positive for methamphetamine and heroin. Child Protective Services (CPS) intervened and threatened to take the baby away. Fortunately for Chantilly, Spokane-based treatment center Rising Strong was presented as an alternative option that would allow Chantilly to keep her family together while receiving the treatment she needed.

“Being on drugs you are a shell of a person. I was completely lost and didn’t know what I was going to do,” Chantilly said. “I asked if there was anything I could do to keep my baby with me. It was hard, living with a bunch of other people, sharing a bathroom and a kitchen. But if I didn’t have the help of Rising Strong, I wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own."

Rising Strong is a 12-18-month live-in treatment and parenting program with the mission of stopping intergenerational cycles of poverty, abuse and neglect due to substance use by treating the whole family and providing services designed to keep families together. Rising Strong—one of the only programs in the country that treats the whole family—accepts children of any age, and currently houses 35 families, 17 of which have infants.

Childhood trauma – a pattern
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) research has shown that one of the most traumatic things a child can experience is to be taken away from their parents, whether those parents are making good choices or not. Not to mention, when adults lose their children due to substance use, they can also lose their incentive to get sober. The pattern often repeats, as most of the parents in Rising Strong were also children of the system. Treating the family is a way to change the generational pattern and give children the opportunity to create a better world for themselves and their future children.

Premera’s grant
In 2018, Premera Social Impact granted $175,000 to Rising Strong to launch their pilot program. Last January, nine families became the first to graduate from the program, all moving into stable, independent housing. Overall, Rising Strong is seeing success rates around 90% where families become self-reliant and sober.

Getting sober together
When Tiffany, a Spokane native who entered Rising Strong last March with her 6 and 13-year-old daughters, came to the program she was homeless and in active withdrawal from several substances. Now she has 10 months of sobriety. “This program has given me my hope for life back,” she said. “I was very depressed and suicidal and didn’t care to have a life because it was so miserable. Now I wake up every day happy and welcoming of the next challenge. It has brought me back and made me love myself again.”

Dawn Kinder, director of Rising Strong, described how Premera’s grant jump-started the pilot program to help people like Chantilly and Tiffany. “Premera’s funding has enabled us to support both children and adults in getting healthy and most importantly, in staying together,” she said. “Without that kind of support, we would not be able to provide all of the services that we offer, and I really believe that the totality of our services is what makes our program successful.”

Chantilly, now a graduate of Rising Strong, is another one of the program’s success stories. She has been sober for two years, has an apartment, a job at an animal shelter, and now makes enough money to support herself and her 2-year-old daughter. She dreams of becoming a veterinarian one day and is eager to spread the word about how Rising Strong changed her life and gave her hope for the future.

“It is profoundly impactful to watch a child watch their parent get sober,” Dawn said. “It’s one thing to watch an adult get sober. But to watch a 6 or 10-year-old watch their parent in that process is incredible. And to see the enormous impact that makes on a child’s life is why we’re here."

Rising Strong is a partnership of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington and Empire Health Foundation.

View the video below to learn more about Tiffany and Chantilly’s experiences in Rising Strong. Video by Alexandra Gunnoe.


Alexandra Gunnoe is in Corporate Communications at Premera Blue Cross.


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