Mad River Union
MCKINLEYVILLE – A McKinleyville-based transitional living facility has been described by county supervisors as a model for other communities to follow and has the potential to expand its residential addiction recovery services.
Sponsored by Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone at the Feb. 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, a presentation from the directors of AJ’s Transitional Living facility outlined recent progress and future goals.
Located on Halfway Avenue near the intersection of Airport Road, AJ’s is the only residential recovery program in the Fifth District and has been operating since 2016. Madrone said he recently visited the facility, a three-bedroom home with an organic garden and chicken farm, and found its alcohol and drug addiction recovery program to be “just phenomenal.”
Managed by Art and Jeanine Wilson, AJ’s uses the 12-step recovery program pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous and furthered by Narcotics Anonymous. But participation in the 12-step process, which has a spiritual element, is not a requirement, said Art Wilson.
A supportive recovery environment includes a variety of assistance, including coordination with service agencies and transportation to medical and recovery-oriented appointments.
“Our compassion stems from our unconditional love and acceptance of peoples in all phases of early recovery,” he said. “Self-esteem-building is at the core of residence at AJ’s.”
Jeanine Wilson presented AJ’s recovery statistics. Since its opening in 2016, the 19-bed facility has hosted 182 residents. Some relapsed and left, and then returned.
Twenty-four percent of AJ’s clients have been clean and sober for over a year, a rate that’s improved significantly. “We have learned from our mistakes and we are beating the odds with our model,” she said.
The continuum of care – the tracking of patients through a procession of care services – is “the core of what’s important to successful recovery,” Wilson continued. “A lot of residents come to AJ’s straight out of jail, detox or the streets,” she said, and they are “given plenty of the time and energy that’s needed for a successful recovery journey.”
Future plans for AJ’s include expansion of its board of directors, applying for grants with the help of the Humboldt Area Foundation and seeking corporate sponsorships.
Madrone said that “what you’ve done provides an example for all of our communities.” He noted AJ’s location on “an ideal parcel,” which is secluded and has enough space for gardening and farming.
It also offers room to expand. Art Wilson said the remodeling of an existing storage structure could “easily” expand AJ’s capacity by 30 beds.
Cassandra Hesseltine, who leads the Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commission, recently joined AJ’s Board of Directors. She said a family member’s death was related to drug addiction “so I am very passionate about this and I appreciate their passion.”
She noted that the Wilsons established AJ’s with their own funding and “it is time for the community to contribute and help.”
Supervisor Estelle Fennell described AJ’s as “a very good example for others to look at,” and added, “Hopefully we can work with you in the future.”