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Changing Lives One Woman at a Time
by Jessica Carner
Oct 05, 2011 | 2976 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne - Two of the facility’s women in treatment are Shellina Rush (above) and Machelle Kamrath (below).
Tribune/John Byrne - Two of the facility’s women in treatment are Shellina Rush (above) and Machelle Kamrath (below).
Tribune/John Byrne
Tribune/John Byrne
Tribune/John Byrne - Step2 CEO Diaz Dixon
Tribune/John Byrne - Step2 CEO Diaz Dixon
RENO — Step2, a private, nonprofit organization that specializes in treating chemically dependent women who have children, next week will open a new treatment facility that company representatives say will allow the organization to increase its services in northern Nevada.

In November 2010, ground was broken for a new substance abuse treatment center in Sun Valley. Now, less than one year later, the 14,000-square foot Step2 Mathewson Family Counseling Center is ready to open.

A grand opening for the center, located at 3700 Safe Harbor Way, will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Step2 has two sites in Reno, which include the Coronado house, a 16-bed facility where women spend the first three to six months of their treatment; and the Lighthouse campus, a transitional living facility with 25 cottages that clients typically live in for one year.

The new counseling center is adjacent to the Lighthouse campus in Sun Valley and includes family counseling and child care centers, along with administrative offices that have been moved from a location on Virginia Street.

The Mathewson Family Counseling Center was funded almost entirely by nearly $4 million in private donations. TNT Construction Inc. served as the main contractor and as one of the center’s primary donors.

The largest sponsor was the Mathewson Charitable Lead Trusts, and significant donations were received from the E.L. Cord Foundation, the Robert S. and Dorothy J. Keyser Foundation and the Nell J. Redfield Foundation, along with a long list of additional donors.

“The funding all came from private donors, other than the money to furnish the computer room,” said Diane Thorkildson, chief operating officer.

A computer lab with 11 stations was furnished with funding from the Division of Child and Family Services, she said. Computers will be used to deliver intensive parenting programs and job skills training to the women in treatment.

During a groundbreaking ceremony for the center held in November, Secretary of State Ross Miller expressed his amazement that such a center was being built with private donations.

“It is rare in today’s economy to see any groundbreaking, let alone for a nonprofit,” Miller said. “I think that speaks to this program. … The downside is this is the only facility in the state of this kind.”

The mission of Step2 is to provide women and their children suffering from chemical addiction, poverty and domestic violence the opportunity to rebuild their lives. The result is self-sufficient healthy families.

“Step2 was founded in 1986 based on the premise that women need to be able to keep their kids with them while they are in treatment,” Thorkildson said.

Step2 was started by a group of businesswomen as a small residential treatment facility, she said. Now, the program serves as many as 250 women and their children each year. According to the organization’s website, it is the only treatment center of its kind in northern Nevada, and one of the few in the country.

“We have about 65 families engaged in services right now,” CEO Diaz Dixon said.

Program expenses are covered by grants, donations and fundraisers, according to Dixon.

“Seventy-five percent of our funding comes from state and federal grants,” Dixon said. “We are heavily reliant on fundraising for the other 25 percent.”

Most women who are admitted into the STEP2 program arrive with no money, Dixon said.

“About 98 percent come without a dime and the other 2 percent don’t have much,” he said.

“Since many clients are suffering from poverty in addition to chemical addiction, no woman is ever turned away because of her inability to pay for treatment,” the organization’s website states.

Once clients advance to the stage of moving to the Lighthouse campus, they are placed in fully furnished one- to three-bedroom cottages. Dixon said that upon graduation the women are allowed to take everything with them when they move out on their own, right down to the silverware.

Machelle’s story

“I’ve been here 6 months,” Machelle Kamrath, a Lighthouse campus resident, said Tuesday morning as she toured the new treatment center. “… Besides one bump in the road (a relapse with alcohol), I’ve got over six months clean … I hang onto that.”

Kamrath has struggled with an alcohol dependency for a number of years, but said Step2 has given her the confidence and the tools she needs to save her own life.

“I was drinking myself to death,” Kamrath said. “I was homeless for two years … then I woke up one day and realized I really was drinking myself to death and I had to make a choice … I called the detox on Record Street and decided to start there.”

Kamrath went into the detox program while she waited for a bed at Step2, and was lucky to get in quickly, she said. She has been to several treatment programs in the past, but said she feels like she can finally beat her alcoholism.

Forty-two days ago, Kamrath relapsed but returned home to Step2 and admitted her mistake. Her counselors and friends in the program embraced her and helped her understand that a relapse is not the end of the world and that it is actually part of the recovery process.

“I have to understand I am not perfect — I wasn’t perfect when I came here,” she said. “This is the part where they talk about having the courage to go on.”

It was after the relapse that Kamrath realized she can stop drinking.

“I realized I really, really don’t ever have to do this again,” she said. “I am really glad they helped me through that bump in the road.”

Shellina’s story

Shellina Rush, 33, has been at Step2 for 60 days. She currently is staying at the Coronado house for 30 more days until she can move to the Lighthouse campus.

Rush has been down a rough road, dealing with everything from watching her mother die to losing a child to being abused by family members and later by men she was with. She started using drugs at age 18 and became a prostitute by the time she was 20 years old.

“I used meth to numb my whole life,” she said on Tuesday. “All this time I have been living outside my body and now I am in it, and it feels so good.”

Rush has a 2-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son, and said she is afraid she is going to lose her children. She will go to court later this month to hear her fate.

“(Child Protective Services) wanted me to come here a year ago,” Rush said. “But it took me 14 months to decide that I needed help.”

Rush said it was not until she decided to do it for herself that she sought treatment.

“Some people take longer,” she said, adding that she hopes the court will see she is finally doing something about her drug addiction. “I really want (my children) in my life.”

“I am doing this for myself,” she said. “I am learning to love myself. If I can’t love myself, I can’t give anyone else a chance. I can’t even love my kids the way I should until I love myself.”

Now that Rush is in the Step2 program, she has found faith, hope and a sense of self-confidence she never had.

“I love this program,” she said. “It has given me so much power and courage … I believe that I am a woman. I don’t have to have a guy to tell me what to do … and I believe in God now.”
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