A Ray of Hope In Montana’s Fight Against Opioid Addiction

“Working together, we can create a mountain of hope for the future of rural and tribal communities. The possibilities for sustained improvements in economic, environmental, and social health lie in the strength, innate wisdom, and creativity of local people—in their relationships with each other and the land. They know their communities’ needs and have good ideas for strength-based solutions.”

Executive Director Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer

Hopa Mountain, a 501c3 nonprofit based in Bozeman, Montana, is dedicated to improving education, ecological health, and economic development by supporting and empowering rural and tribal citizen leaders. Its motto is, “Speak with honesty…Think with sincerity…Act with integrity…” Its approach is grounded in the idea that citizen leaders, often those who others turn to for help, are the most effective change-makers in each community.

“Our work is focused on recognizing the critical role citizen leaders play in nurturing healthy, vibrant communities,” says Executive Director Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer.

Hopa Mountain is also a major Fletcher Group partner in a new initiative to develop Recovery Housing for the addicted and homeless in northwestern Montana. Fletcher Group Founder Ernie Fletcher and CEO Dave Johnson recently met with 22 local activists gathered in Polson, Montana to discuss challenges and opportunities.

Included among the activists were public service providers such as Chauncey Parker, Executive Director of the Rocky Boy Veterans Center in Elder, Montana, and Niki Graham, Community Research Associate with the University of Montana.

The needs in northwestern Montana are acute, says Jay Brewer, a licensed addiction counselor in Polson. “Everyone is couch-surfing in houses where people are using. It’s impossible for them to recover this way. People can’t recover without safe, sober housing.”

At the meeting in Polson, Brewer pointed to an alarming lack of local resources. “Our jails are so over-crowded that courts routinely book and release people simply because there’s no place for them.”

Funded by a $6.6 million federal grant to extend its innovative Recovery Housing model nationwide, the Fletcher Group is currently focusing its work in Montana on those counties with the highest rates of overdose deaths: Flathead, Lake, Mineral, Lewis and Clark, Silver Bow, Gallatin, and Park.

Finding purpose and meaning is important not only during recovery but after. Life skills classes, aptitude testing, job training, and an aggressive “Social Enterprise” program involving supportive businesses can work together to create the kind of meaningful employment that will keep those in recovery on the path to economic independence, fulfillment, and a sense of belonging.

“We’re not running anything or trying to build anything here for ourselves,” noted Fletcher. “We’ve built a team that can open some doors and I’m confident we can help you get something done.  But we don’t have all the answers. That’s why we’re here—to develop with you the partnerships needed to find the answers.”

As part of that effort, the Fletcher Group has hired as its local Outreach Specialist April Charlo who, in her own words, “grew up that Rezy way” on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Charlo will be in charge of developing community partnerships and sponsorships that can help jump-start the project. The goal will be to have at least one Recovery Housing residence in place within the next three years.

“You hear the same thing all the time,” said Charlo. “’If only I had had a safe place to go.’ That’s why this meeting is definitely the coolest on-boarding I’ve ever had.”

After attending the meeting in Polson, Fletcher and Johnson traveled to Helena, Montana’s state capitol, to speak with state authorities including Montana governor Steve Bullock. Fletcher and Johnson will also be hosting in Kentucky many of the activists who gathered in Polson. They will travel to Lexington to see for themselves the Fletcher Group model at work within the Recovery Kentucky facilities that Fletcher first developed there when serving as governor.

For more information about Hopa Mountain’s important work and how to contribute, feel free to contact Executive Director Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer at (406) 586-2455 or by email at bsawyer@hopamountain.org.

“Citizen leaders are a particularly concentrated and potent form of social capital. With sufficient resources, they are rural and tribal communities’ most efficient and effective agents of positive change. Hopa Mountain seeks to provide the resources and support local leaders need to promote community health and well–being to build community wealth.”

Executive Director Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer
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