Looking beyond the box: Ten16 Recovery Network offers hope

When someone shares they are sick or recovering from an illness, there are many reactions they might receive. Generally, it’s one of sympathy. Offers to bring them soup, help pick their kids up from school, or take their dog for a walk so they can rest and take care of themselves may all be readily offered. When someone shares they are in recovery for an illness like alcoholism or drug addiction, often they get an entirely different response. Conversations like these are sometimes not met with sympathy, empathy, or anything of the like. Those struggling with addiction are given the cold shoulder, ignored by society, or worse – met with disdain. Society treats those struggling and in recovery from an addiction differently than someone who is recovering from the flu.

So where does a person go when they need long-term help taking the seemingly impossible task of helping themselves regain their lives and begin recovery? In Midland and the broader Central Michigan region, there is a unique resource for just that. The Ten16 Recovery Network is a non-profit organization that has been serving the community since 1980. With six locations spanning Midland, Gladwin, Clare, Big Rapids and Mt. Pleasant, those struggling and looking for help can turn to an organization that prides itself on being an open door for those in need.

Ten16 gives clients a resource for support, mentoring and a path forward.

Behind every non-profit organization in human services, there are people. People who care, who reach out, and who understand better than anyone what you are going through, often dedicated their lives to serving and guiding individuals into long-term recovery.

Zach Brewer is a Recovery Coach at the Midland outpatient facility of Ten16. As someone who has been in long-term recovery for four years, he is the perfect resource to guide others looking for help. He’s been through it personally and has dedicated himself to the cause of helping others do the same through his work.

Zach Brewer works as a recovery coach for Ten16.

Brewer also heads up the Fresh Start program, a group that gathers to discuss employment and the struggles that an individual in recovery might face. “Fresh Start has become an opportunity to utilize clients in the program who want to find work, volunteer, or further their education,” says Brewer. “The program helps to help oversee them and help on a one-on-one basis.”

A self-described family man, Brewer knows all too well the hardships of providing for a family while going through one of the hardest times in a person’s life. He started at Ten16 by volunteering his time and doing service work, until he was eventually recommended for his current full-time position. After a year and a half at the organization, he has found his niche overseeing clients on a one-on-one basis helping them find, gain and maintain employment.

When asked what some of the biggest challenges are for clients working through the Fresh Start program, Brewer noted that there are many different issues that can be problematic. “Some of the bigger things we address are self-confidence and self-esteem. That’s a huge barrier, because people can talk themselves out of even applying for jobs,” says Brewer. “Another issue is that co-workers are often using and selling substances and that can be hard to be around. That is why we directly have these conversations during involvement in the program.”

Brewer meets with a client at Ten16.

Another major barrier to employment is completing a background check. Often while sick, people end up going through the judicial system and being charged. The box you check at the bottom of a job application that asks if you have ever been charged with a felony has big implications – it can make or break the chances at getting a job. That box doesn’t tell employers the full story though and not all felonies are the same. “If you don’t ask questions and hear the whole story, then folks won’t know the situation. Employers and potential employees can look at and talk through some of these felony charges and share their story and discuss the issue on a personal level,” says Brewer.

Most employers shy away from hiring someone who is openly in recovery. “Often, hesitancy comes with the announcement of recovery. It automatically outs the client as struggling with abuse of substances,” says Brewer.

“How I see it, you never know what you’re getting with most candidates, and these folks in the Fresh Start program are six months clean, actively working in a program and very transparent. The employer will know if this person is having hiccups, because they get a bit of a guarantee with our organization’s involvement,” says Brewer.

“There is a zero tolerance part of the deal. Anyone who does happen to relapse is treated with respect and is not fired but gently let go, and then receives any treatment they might need in addition to an option to reapply later.”

Carl Doud of Midland County Mosquito Control, the first business to work with Ten16 on a hiring program.

There is one employer already willing to look beyond the box and hire clients of Ten16’s Fresh Start program. Carl Doud with Midland County Mosquito Control did something extraordinary. While going through Leadership Midland, he was introduced to the concept of clients in recovery who couldn’t find employment. He worked with Brewer and the Ten16 organization to offer seasonal positions in Midland County Mosquito Control to individuals in long-term recovery, regardless of background felonies as long as they met a certain standard.

“When Carl created the employment program, he wanted to make sure that some felonies were allowed to be overlooked, and some were not,” says Brewer. “Drug felonies for example, can be overlooked, while domestic violence charges are not allowed.”

Brewer is still looking for more long-term partner organizations. “We don’t have any other regular employers yet, but what this has sparked in my mind, and what Sam Price, our CEO and the supervisors here have discussed is what huge potential this holds,” says Brewer.

Sam Price, president and CEO of Ten16 Recovery Network.

“What Carl and Mosquito Control did was give us the first trial run of a partnership like this. We now have the groundwork laid to present to other employers, and this allows us to reproduce that success. We already have employers asking about the program and we welcome others to reach out to us.”

For Brewer, his own employment is about more than just having a job. “I think that giving back to the community is important to staying in recovery yourself. This job is the epitome of giving back for me,” says Brewer. “When you get to see the hope and excitement of someone in recovery, and all of their dreams start to come true, it really lights a constant fire of energy towards giving back, which has been important for my own recovery. Service work in whatever way possible is very important to me and this job gives me those opportunities.”

Ten16 aims to change the stigma around addiction.

Removing the stigma that is associated with addiction and recovery is imperative to helping those who struggle. “Programs like this are huge stepping stones. When you can get doctors, lawyers, judges, police officers and employers to start seeing that not everybody repeats the same substance abuse patterns and they do change, that’s a good starting point to changing the stigma,” says Brewer.

“Seeing the change take place as it happens is important. I always support people in long-term recovery reporting back on their success to authority figures and law enforcement to show their path has changed and that they are in long-term recovery. It goes a long way in changing the perception on this issue.”

A long-time tenant of Downtown Midland, the Ten16 Recovery Network recently announced development and expansion plans. The organization will be making the move to the Center City District soon, planning to break ground at 133 N. Saginaw Road in January, with the new facility to be complete next summer.

For more information about Ten16 Recovery Network and their services, visit www.1016.org, call 989-631-0241, or email info@1016.org.

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