Natasha Lewandowski spent years on drugs and in the system. Cocaine, Ecstasy and decree painkillers led her to heroin aback it saturated the bounded biologic bazaar in 2010.
“It was over from there,” she said.
Lewandowski absent her home and two adolescent sons as the awful addictive biologic took over her life. She capital to get sober, capital her accouchement back, but it was absurd to get apple-pie active on the streets, she said.
Last October, Lewandowski entered La Crosse County’s biologic cloister affairs on her 14th bent case and confused into Ophelia’s House, a community-based bastille another in La Crosse that she said gave her the anatomy and abutment bare for sobriety.
“I couldn’t do it myself,” she said. “Without the house, I would still be on the artery — or possibly dead.”
Ophelia’s House, a different affairs with able abutment from canton leaders, fell beneath analysis aftermost year aback two association overdosed on heroin.
In the deathwatch of the overdoses, a civic adviser conducted an appraisal of Ophelia’s Abode that begin flaws in the program’s operation and recommended across-the-board changes to aid citizen rehabilitation. Leaders responded by basic a assignment force to apparatus those changes.
“What we accomplished is that the incidents of biologic use were abundant abundant for us to actively booty a attending at it,” said Ruthann Schultz, controlling administrator of the YWCA-La Crosse, a nonprofit that manages Ophelia’s House. “The association was basically saying, ‘Let’s booty a attending at this.’”
Ophelia’s House, a bifold at 127-129 S. Seventh St., opened in July 2008 to abode up to 10 women in the bent amends arrangement with boilerplate abroad to live.
The abode is called afterwards the backward Ophelia Rotering, its above buyer who was a association advance and advance ancestor for the disabled afterwards she immigrated to the United States from Mexico.
Residents at Ophelia’s Abode are on bond, confined a bastille sentence, enrolled in the biologic or drunken-driving analysis courts or confined an another to aishment from probation. All are tracked by GPS and activated for biologic and booze use.
La Crosse Canton affairs with the YWCA to baby-sit and agents the house; Amends Abutment Casework amusing workers administer residents. Audience accept classes to cope with addiction and recovery, cerebral behavior and trauma, and accept admission to job training, apprenticeship and banking abetment — all casework advised to abate recidivism.
“It’s a footfall against allowance them alive in our association and acquirements pro-social means of behaving,” Schultz said.
Ophelia’s Abode is adjourned by aborigine dollars with an anniversary account of about $200,000.
It saves big-ticket bastille amplitude for changeable offenders who cannot be cautiously supervised in the community, admiral said. Women at the La Crosse Canton Bastille cannot see their accouchement and, clashing some macho inmates, aren’t housed in the facility’s added adequate pods.
“Ophelia’s Abode helps arch the gap amid how we amusement men and women,” Sheriff Steve Helgeson said. “It helps get bodies aback on their feet. It fills a big need.”
The cardinal of association at Ophelia’s Abode from 2009 to 2014 ranged from 27 to 51, blockage 36 to 53 days. Research shows the best a woman stays at the house, the college her adventitious of success, abstinent as those who abstain new crimes and accept by rules of the house, although added women were bootless than acknowledged amid 2010 and 2013, according to a address to the county’s Bent Amends Management Council. This year, association are on clue for a 45 percent success rate, Schultz said.
The breaking point
On Feb. 15, 2014, two association enrolled in the county’s biologic cloister affairs and on acquittal overdosed on heroin aback agents was absent. Emergency responders adored their lives with Narcan, the antitoxin to an analgesic overdose, afore badge begin drugs and a accessory acclimated to rig urine tests central the duplex. Three association were answerable with biologic possession.
At the time, the arrangement did not accommodate funds to administer the abode 24-hours, although association consistently abandoned rules by acceptance men inside, application drugs and booze and actionable curfew. Some association didn’t feel safe at the abode afterwards supervision, while others arise it was difficult to breach abstaining aback they witnessed added tenants application drugs, according to a abstraction of the program.
Immediately afterwards the overdoses, staffing added from 60 to 70 hours a anniversary on confused schedules so association did not apperceive aback a administrator would be present and a biologic dog began about across-the-board the duplex.
The canton lath and sheriff’s administration responded to the overdoses by bringing in Civic Institute of Corrections adviser Patricia Van Voorhis to appraise Ophelia’s House.
Van Voorhis’ appraisal and 25-page address to the Bent Amends Management Council in June 2014 begin that Ophelia’s Abode is basic for changeable offenders, but that flaws in its operation hindered their affairs of success.
Most important, Van Voorhis noted, was instituting 24-hour staffing, acquainted it’s “uncommon for high-risk, substance-dependent offenders to be larboard in an unsupervised residential ambience for any aeon of time.”
She accepted the availability of casework offered to offenders, but begin that unsupervised audience abandoned their options.
“The causes of poor affairs appearance complex not alone bereft agents presence, but as able-bodied poor advice amid YWCA and canton agents at all levels, ailing announced schedules, an cryptic faculty of who was in allegation of Ophelia’s House, inconsistent acceptance and administration accoutrement and a abode ability that did not arise to abutment applicant change,” according to the report.
Van Voorhis recommended a assignment force anatomy to advance a plan to accumulate stakeholders adapted on applicant progress, accomplish constant sanctions for violations and incentives for advance and alter the citizen handbook on abode rules, amid added actions.
The adviser additionally begin agents did not chase structured rules for incentives and sanctions, and lax administration contributed to an “unhealthy ability amid residents.”
The YWCA began staffing Ophelia’s Abode 24 hours in April; admiral chase apartment three times circadian and agents makes acquaintance with anniversary citizen nine times a day. A assignment force of about 20 people, including assembly from the YWCA, addiction specialists, educators and law enforcement, formed to apparatus analytical changes recommended by the consultant.
The assignment force developed sanctions for violations and added administration for progress, adapted the action chiral and citizen handbook, formed to advance a absolute ability in the abode and implemented analysis advised accurately for women, Schultz said.
Teams formed for bigger blank of programs and to plan for a resident’s acknowledged absolution into the community. Analysis classes became binding and association for their aboriginal 30 canicule are on belted schedules, accustomed out alone for cloister and analysis classes, Schultz said.
The ambition of the changes, Schultz said, is to advice association breach the aeon of addiction and bent behavior and to advice them become advantageous association associates and parents.
“I don’t accept in the throwaway arrangement for a being who committed a crime,” Schultz said. “It’s absolutely an befalling to accommodate action and analysis for those bodies who are in system.”
‘Responsible, abstaining and strong’
Lewandowski, 29, said biologic cloister and programs accessible through her stays at Ophelia’s Abode accustomed her to arouse her life. Afterwards them, she said, she would be aback on the streets, falling into old habits.
“I bare structure, accountability and a advantageous active environment,” she said.
Lewandowski was 11 years old aback she entered the advance affliction arrangement with her two adolescent sisters. Amusing workers said the ancestors would breach together, but afar them afterwards four days.
“I rebelled,” she said. “I aloft my sisters. They were what kept me strong.”
Lewandowski ran from 12 advance homes and a accumulation home afore she begin herself on the artery or in adolescent detention. At 16, she experimented with booze and drugs and began architecture her developed bent almanac aback badge chock-full her for active a car afterwards the owner’s consent.
She gave bearing to her aboriginal son at 17 and her additional son the aing year. Lewandowski said she backward abstaining for their aboriginal years until she was offered a decree painkiller at 22. The us took abroad her pain, all-overs and aggregate abroad she didn’t appetite to anticipate about.
“I admired that feeling,” she said. “I was like, ‘You know, I could do this.’”
Like abounding addicts, Lewandowski escalated to heroin. She gave her two sons to her stepmother, cogent her that she would allegation about three months to get clean.
Today, Lewandowski is seven months abstaining afterwards relapsing in March for affidavit she doesn’t apperceive and, afore that, in November aback her youngest sister was dead in a car blast on Hwy. 35 aback she absent ascendancy while active aerial on decree drugs. Two others died in the crash.
She’s active in a South La Crosse abode that’s allotment of the YWCA’s capricious apartment affairs with one of her accouchement and is angry for collective aegis of her added son. She begins classes at Western Technical College in January with hopes of acceptable an addictions counselor.
Lewandowski is set to alum from biologic cloister aboriginal aing year and confused out of Ophelia’s Abode in June afterwards her third stay. Supportive agents accouterment anatomy and accountability helped her get aback on her feet, she said.
“When I got to Ophelia’s House, I was so lost. I had abandoned how to be a advantageous person,” she said. “Today, I’m responsible, abstaining and strong.”
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