On Sunday, February 9, at 5 p.m., interested Mokelumne Hill residents are invited to attend a Town Hall meeting regarding plans to establish a private, faith-based home for recovering drug and alcohol addicted women in our downtown area. The proposed center will be a residence for women in recovery, run by and using the Faith Home Network Adult and Teen Challenge (FHTC.life) program.

The meeting will address questions from residents and business owners about the location of the proposed center, which is in the middle of our downtown area, near our hotel, shops, and the community park, and concerns over how this would potentially reshape our town. It will also address concerns on how these women could be kept safe while on their programs, what would happen in the event that one of the women decides to not comply with regulations regarding drug use, and who would be on hand to address urgent situations that may arise, given our lack of law enforcement resources and medical facilities.

It will be a moderated discussion.

The intention behind this meeting is not to “squash” drug rehab in our community. But we feel that how women are helped on the road to recovery deserves to be worked out in consultation with the community, addressing these and other legitimate concerns. We hope that Sunday’s meeting will result in a civilized discussion.

Following are the initial topics. We invite you to attend, and to submit questions or comments beforehand, if desired, to info@acmeartmokehill.com.

1. Drug addicted women are often also battered or otherwise abused women, and in many cases have been used and abused by criminal operations. In these cases particularly, in order to recover, the women need to thoroughly remove themselves from these influences. The first requirement for them should be a safe location where they cannot be found while making an adjustment to a new and better environment.

This center is being proposed in the middle of a small community literally two blocks from Highway 49. Flyers are already being distributed about its purpose and location. With these factors, how is it even possible to provide these women with the confidential and secure location they need?

2. Related to this, it often happens that when a woman enters recovery, her old “associates,” including a boyfriend or husband, will work to contact her and bring her back to her old environment. There are times when threats and even violence are used to accomplish this. Has it been taken into account that these women are being brought to a town that does not even have a Sheriff’s office, where calls to the Sheriff at times receive no response for upwards of 45 minutes? Who is going to protect these women when needed?

3. We were informed that there will be two staff members of FHTC on the premises at all times. We asked more than once, how are these staff members trained? Are they trained by law enforcement on what to do in a potentially violent situation? Are they trained as social workers? Whose hands are these women’s lives and future being entrusted to? We have received no answer.

4. We sincerely applaud the graduates of FHTC, including the two women who came and shared their stories with us. They are remarkable and do indeed bring hope to others. We cannot, however, talk about only successes and ignore the realities of recovery. According to Medscape (https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/success-rates-and-statistics) 70-80% of enrollees drop out before completing the program.

This presents a situation of having women in the house in the center of our town who are not in agreement with completing the program and out of agreement with the rules of the house. This raises the following questions:

a. If a woman in the program decides to engage in drug use while in the program, if she is not allowed to use drugs in the house, she will use drugs outside of the house. The house in question has nothing but a small wire fence between its yard and China Gulch, an area of our town that has had problems at times with drug users and drug sellers. Why would one put a recovery center literally a stone’s throw from an area known to have just recently been a supply area of illegal drugs including methamphetamine?

b. There are three locations within one block of the proposed recovery house that would be “logical” locations where one could engage in drug use unseen. One of these is the historic Boy Scout hut which is separated from the facility by only a three foot wire fence. This fence can be expanded to the legal limit of six feet. A six foot fence can be climbed.

Another is a currently abandoned house on China Gulch, half a block from the proposed center. It was formerly own by a convicted felon and was frequented at different times by drug users and buyers. It is now unmonitored. With a treehouse and trailer in the back yard as well as rooms in the house, it is an ideal location for someone seeking a hidden location for illicit activity.

The other is Shutter Tree Park, just two blocks from the proposed location of this center. The park is frequented by children in the daytime playing in the playground, residents walking their dogs or enjoying the picnic tables, and free concerts with local musicians in the summer. It is important to us to work to keep this park for the community to enjoy and to keep it free of illicit drug use and the associated criminality. This has taken a strong community effort. Thanks to the founding and active participation of our Neighborhood Watch we have made significant progress in this area. The FHTC home could have the exact opposite effect, of inviting criminal activity into our park and community.

c. We were told at the meeting that the women were “not allowed to come and go,” that for the first 30-45 days of their program they are on “lockdown” and not allowed to leave the house. How is this “lockdown” carried out? Are the women physically unable to leave even if they, or their family members request to do so? And what are the legal limitations to forcing someone to remain in a house against their will?

After multiple questions to the organizers of the meeting, we were not presented with a believable scenario where women could not leave the house, other than to say, “it has never happened before.” When pressed on this, the same refrain was offered. We did not receive an answer on the question.

d. The women, we were told, do not bring their own transportation to the program. We were also told that should one of the women decide to leave the program, she will be “brought back to where she came from.” Again referring to someone who is in the house but not doing the program, how is any person going to force her to “return” anywhere against her will? Kidnap her and throw her into a car? She is just as likely to remain in our community, where it is easy to connect to other users, where she is not as known and where she recognizes that there are few resources for law enforcement.

Particularly as one of the speakers from Tuolumne County mentioned how happy they were that they could “send people here,” the likelihood of this bringing active drug users and their criminal associates into our community through the inevitable percentage of failures in the program is high.

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you on Sunday night.

5 Comments

  1. Pastor Trent FiorinoFebruary 5, 2020 (Edit)This is a link to a Northwestern University study on the success of Teen Challengehttps://teenchallengeusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NW_study.pdfREPLY
    • guest-contributorFebruary 5, 2020 (Edit)Thank you. To be clear, this is a student’s dissertation, not a study by Northwestern University. With valuable information it.But also to be clear, the purpose of this meeting is not to “sell” or criticize the Teen Challenge program. The purpose of this meeting is for community members to be able to get answers to questions on how the location of this center will impact the Mokelumne Hill community, and whether THIS location is an appropriate location for the Teen Challenge program, as well as how the center would deal with women who decide not to comply with the no-drugs rule or who drop out of the program, or how the center will deal with it when their former associates come looking for them and attempting to connect to bring them back. These are things that have direct impact in our neighborhoods.Many of us sat in a long meeting last week and heard the “reasons why” and heard from successful participants in the program. Our questions do not center on the validity of the program. They center on the impact of this center — in this location — on our lives, our homes and our children, and whether a different, more remote and secure, location would be more appropriate for the program.We would appreciate it if the focus of the event remains on interacting with the community to discuss their concerns. Thank you.REPLY
  2. geraldine lupiaFebruary 5, 2020 (Edit)Every word you have written is direct, CORRECT and to the point. I stand with you and everyone else who believes this is not for our town.REPLY
  3. Deborah KearneyFebruary 10, 2020 (Edit)First of all, Thanks to Mary, Anne, Will, Kevin, Shirley and all who organized the Town Hall meeting-I felt much more comfortable in this Forum.I am a VERY CLOSE neighbor and have a couple of thoughts after last nights meeting. First, it would make me very sad to look down at that house and think of people having to go through being detained- for 30-45 days. I did not move on to Main Street to be next to such a “detention facility”.Secondly, our Town Sewer System, taking on 7-8 women in one house- at the minimum- they will have to redo plumbing in the house- how will the EXTRA sewage affect the antiquated system that we all share? A single family house, RARELY would have more than 3 women (including teen girls)occupying and using water and sewer- we are talking 2 to 3 x more use in that one house.I think this organization should consider a different location. As the Sheriff said, “This town has really improved in the last 5 years with the Neighborhood Watch.” We all get along and know each other. The idea of a 1/2 Way office in the old French Bakery is pretty sad. Do we want visitors to have that be their first impression upon entering our Town?As others have said, “This is not over yet.”