After 38 years of “drinking and drugging,” Maryland native Sam Carter is now clean and overflowing with gratitude.
“I’m so proud of a place like this. The staff is beautiful — they changed my life,” said the 53-year-old Carter as he stood in the Adult Detoxification Center that the Volunteers of America-Utah have operated at 252 W. Brooklyn Ave. in Salt Lake City for the past 26 years.
The small two-story building is growing by 2,000 square feet in order to accommodate more clients in a safer and more efficient manner.
“We’re going to provide more room, more bathrooms, more beds for people in need in this community,” VOA-Utah President Kathy Bray said during a Thursday afternoon event that unveiled a fundraising campaign to finance the $800,000 in upgrades.
During the past year, 1,737 individuals found the help and support here to wrest themselves away from the clutches of addiction. However, 1,300 requests for service went unmet due to the site’s limited capacity.
“These are people from every ZIP code in Salt Lake County,” Bray said of the clients that come through their doors, “our brothers and our sisters, our daughters and our parents. It could be your neighbor.”
Last year, 600 people were diverted from the Salt Lake County jail to the detox center, Bray said.
“We are making a difference and there are more people out there who need us,” Bray added, noting that they’ve had to turn away three to four people every day in recent years.
The humanitarian arm of the LDS Church donated $200,000 to the center, and Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities, encouraged the community to step up and “match that grant.”
“If you don’t feel like you have very much to offer, what you have is enough,” Eubank said. “The issues that are dealt with here touch every family in the community, and we know that.”
The expansion will add four more bathrooms, five staff offices and 10 additional beds for recovery, along with remodeling of the client intake, laundry and reception areas. Transitional living will move upstairs to be housed in separate quarters from the 56-bed detoxification dorm on the main level.
Of the 66 total beds that the expanded facility will be able to offer, 50 will be for men, six for women and 10 for transitional living. VOA-Utah also operates a Center for Women and Children in Murray, which specifically targets female addicts and alcoholics who are homeless.
“We’re less than a month away from it being finished,” Zachary Bale, VOA-Utah’s vice-president of external relations, said of the construction that began about two months ago.
Coming off of drugs and alcohol can be dangerous, Bale said, “so we work closely with medical providers to ensure that clients are safe while they detox.”
Carter stayed in transitional living at the center for about 10 months, working in its kitchen. His addictions had masked his diabetes, which staff at the Fourth Street Clinic discovered a few years ago, Carter said. He now faithfully takes insulin four times a day.
“When they told me I had diabetes, it blew me away,” Carter said.
Carter and others who have emerged from detox and continued on the road of recovery represent the center’s “quantifiable outcomes,” said community advocate Pamela Atkinson
“You can say ‘they made it . . . they’ve turned their lives around,’ ” Atkinson said as she held up the $500 check she’d recently written to help match the LDS grant.
Donations for the Adult Detoxification Expansion Project can be given online, or checks can be mailed to Volunteers of America Utah, 435 West Bearcat Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84115. For more information, call 801-363-9414.