A Vermont nonprofit will open a new sober living home this week, as it continues making progress in its mission to deliver a wide range of services to people seeking long-term recovery from substance use disorders.
Based in Johnson, Jenna's Promise is named for Jenna Tatro, who was just 26 when she died last year from an opioid overdose.
Her parents almost right away pledged to turn their agony into action.
"We couldn't save Jenna, but we can certainly help another family save their child," said Dawn Tatro, Jenna's mom.
Jenna's Promise is planning a unique multi-pronged approach to help people with substance use disorders.
The new sober living facility will be located in Lamoille County, but NECN has chosen to not name the town it is in or show the outside of the property because of privacy concerns.
The home is for women seeking recovery who also have complex histories of trauma, such as survivors of human trafficking or domestic or sexual violence. Advocates say those groups have been underserved by existing recovery support work.
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Those women, alongside other recently-sober people, will additionally get career skills by working at a coffee roasting business and cafe now in the works for downtown Johnson.
Nearby, they can take advantage of peer meetings, mental health support, and sessions for moms in recovery at a community and wellness space housed in a former church, which is also under construction.
"We will supplant the bad things happening with good things happening," promised Daniel Franklin of the North Central Vermont Recovery Center, which is partnering with Jenna's Promise in that converted church property.
Franklin said the effort is all about saving and improving lives, while driving down poverty.
"Everybody will have the kinds of care and healing opportunities they need," Franklin added.
Vermont's U.S. Attorney, who has championed the development of Jenna's Promise, said the suite of services can't come soon enough, following an uptick in tragedies during the pandemic.
"During the height of our isolation, dealers did not stay home, resulting in overdose deaths," said Christina Nolan, Vermont's top federal prosecutor.
Nolan pointed to numbers from the Vermont Department of Health that showed through September, the state saw 109 fatal overdoses, compared to 82 for the same period last year.
The U.S. Attorney said fatal overdoses spiked in Vermont in March, April, and May, blaming the increases on loneliness and counseling being harder to access in-person because of COVID-19.
"The overdose numbers are up—we're going to bring them back down again," Nolan pledged.
While Nolan vowed to aggressively prosecute drug traffickers, she said it's just as vital to focus on wraparound services—the transitional housing, counseling, and job readiness education that Jenna's Promise stands for—to reduce violence against women and drug addiction in Vermont.
"Recovery is the best form of crime prevention," Nolan said.
Federal and state grants, funds from the Lamoille County Sheriff's department, and donations are funding the effort.
Tatro's parents said they are deeply grateful to see others share their vision for community betterment.
"We're just getting started," Greg Tatro said. "This is a mission Dawn and I have taken on for a lifetime. We will do our best to make a difference."
More information on Jenna's Promise can be found here.