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First drug treatment center planned for Uintah County

Published: Tuesday, April 1 2014 9:19 a.m. MDT

Organizers are working to open a faith-based drug treatment center in Uintah County by the beginning of 2015. The proposed center, the first of its kind in the county, has support from law enforcement, prosecutors and judges.

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VERNAL — They come from different backgrounds but share something in common with thousands of Utahns.

"I was found on my bed, almost dead, and taken to the hospital," JoLynn Marrs said, recalling a terrible day eight years ago. "I was in ICU for three days, and it's a miracle I'm still here."

The father of Kit Yack's children wasn't so fortunate.

"My kids' dad died of a meth overdose, and that was my rock bottom," said Yack, a recovering meth addict. "Ever since then, it's been my life's mission to get as many people into recovery as I can."

Nearly five years ago, Yack was tapped to lead the Meth No More project for Uintah County's Drug Abuse and Prevention Office.

"It's more than just a job for me," she said, noting that the program has helped about 500 people "find their way to recovery."

"At least a third of those people are clean and sober," Yack said. "Many of them didn't make it the first time around, but they came back. It's all about planting seeds."

The grant that funds Meth No More ends in December, but Yack and Marrs aren't finished helping addicts like themselves find sobriety again. Both are part of a group working to open Uintah County's first residential treatment facility for substance abuse.

The Open Arms Recovery Center will offer residents a safe place to live while they work to get clean. Counselors from outside providers such as Northeastern Counseling Center will provide professional services, and the residents will work to support each other in individualized treatment programs that follow a faith-based, holistic approach.

"It will literally be one addict helping another addict, one alcoholic helping another alcoholic," said Marrs, the new center's assistant director.

That appeals to Scott Edrington, who has been in recovery from his addiction to meth for 11 months.

"This program is exactly what I've been looking for," he said. "Once you realize your addiction, one the worst places for an addict to be is by themselves. When you're an addict and you're by yourself, you're in bad company because you start playing mind games."

In the past, Yack has had to refer Meth No More clients to treatment facilities outside the Uintah Basin. While that severed their ties with the people they were using drugs with, it also prevented them from building a support network in the community they would return to once their in-patient treatment ended.

"I got back into the Basin and I was like a deer in the headlights," Marrs said, recalling her return home after a 30-day in-patient program outside Uintah County. The aim of Open Arms is to build stronger support systems for recovering addicts, she said, so they can be "readjusted back into life."

The proposed center has the backing of judges, attorneys and police officers in the Uintah Basin. Several officers and attorneys even volunteered recently to take pies in the face as part of a fundraiser for the center.

Keith Campbell, a supporter of the Meth No More program since its inception and Vernal's assistant police chief, was one of those officers.

"I would be surprised to find a family in our community that hasn't had an immediate family member or someone pretty close to them who wasn't impacted by a drug addiction," Campbell said.

"We'd obviously rather treat them than have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis for crimes," the assistant chief said. "(Open Arms) is going to give us that opportunity to deal with our problems in our area and hopefully improve the quality of life for everyone."

Yack, who will serve as the center's director, said she hopes to have the facility open and running by the beginning of 2015. Donations for the nonprofit facility are being accepted at Grand Valley National Bank in the name of the Open Arms Recovery Center.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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