Alex Williams and Scott Wells know the depths of addiction well.
The two struggled with substance abuse for several years. While their paths differed, Alex traveling across the country struggling with alcoholism and Scott fighting substance abuse issues with pills and alcohol, the two ended up in a detox unit at The Healing Place in Louisville, a substance abuse recovery center.
There, the two formed a friendship as they worked on their recovery, finishing the program and found they had a shared passion: helping others fight the issues that they had struggled with themselves.
“I was in addiction for several, several years,” Wells said. “A good decade and a half. I was taken to treatment via Casey’s Law (more on that here) and I ended up at The Healing Place in Louisville. It took me eight months to complete that program and people to show me why I was drinking and why I couldn’t stop drinking. I had never really bought into the disease concept of it, but when I had people with 15-20 years of sobriety showing me what was going on and started getting into meetings and programs, I found a complete new way of living… living sober, which was what I had always been looking to do.”
Williams remained in Louisville and Wells in his hometown of Russell Springs. The two kept in contact though, being an encouragement to one another and discussing their visions and ideas as Williams went back to his career of working on semi trucks and Wells went back into the construction business.
But while they went back to their prior careers, the two couldn’t get away from what they wanted to do: help others. That vision continued to be a regular talking point among the two.
Part of that vision was opening a recovery center in Russell Springs, where scarcity of resources is a troubling issue especially for an area plagued with substance abuse.
“We knew that a place like Russell Springs was a much-needed area for something like this as opposed to somewhere like Louisville, which is much more saturated,” Williams said. “We want to bring this to a place where people often feel like they don’t have anywhere to go for true recovery.”
“As I was going through that program, I realized I wanted to bring this back to the community I grew up in,” Wells said. “I saw people suffering here. I saw moms and dads burying their kids, grandmas and grandpas heartbroken, and people just felt like they didn’t have anywhere to turn. I just had a desire in my heart to give back what was freely given to me because it is free. You just have to have the desire to stop drinking and drugging.
I love Russell County, man. My mother was raised up over at Rockhouse Bottom and my dad was raised out off Bernard Ridge. I’m from one end to the other… This was all based around this community. I knew the need was there.”
After coming back to Russell Springs, Wells became certified as an Adult Peer Support Specialist.
Following some discussions and planning, Williams packed his things and moved from Louisville to Russell Springs. An eastern Kentucky native, he said he was familiar with the rural lifestyle and knew that opening a rehabilitation center in a rural area could make a difference.
“I just gave it all up,” Williams said about the move. “I didn’t really know what I was doing but I moved down here and since July, we’ve been working at this. I moved down here kind of on a whim and a dream, a vision I had, and Scott sold me on the need for it in this area. All I had to do was come down here and realize how desperately needed this was.”
Williams said he knows how desperately needed recovery resources are. For he and Wells, he said it’s a matter of life or death.
“Me and Scott to this day stay plugged in, every single day, because we know our lives are on the line,” Williams said.
Together, the two combined their passion for recovery and helping others to create S.P.A.R.C. in Russell Springs.
S.P.A.R.C. stands for Sobriety, Peace, Awareness, and Recovery Center.
S.P.A.R.C currently operates a 4,000 square foot, 10-bed facility off Luda Street in Russell Springs with plans to expand that capacity with another facility they’re projected to take over in April. The new facility, an apartment complex, would add an additional 28 beds. The complex will consist of one and two-bedroom apartments.
The facility is licensed through the State of Kentucky as an Alcohol or Other Drug Entity (AODE) facility and has received other needed credentialing to open. S.P.A.R.C began accepting clients in February.
“In July, all we had was an idea, a vision,” Williams said. “That’s all we had. We just can’t express how thankful we are for the support we’ve had.”
The process to making the vision a reality hasn’t been easy. There was a lot of work that needed to be done to the facility. Wells and Williams had a lot of learning to do, and a lot of people to meet to bring their idea to fruition.
“This was my dream once i got sober,” Wells said. “That was a year ago when we started and now here we are.”
Right now, the facility primarily accepts Medicaid and Medicare as payment options.
The facility operates as a residential outpatient treatment center. The clients are involved in an intensive outpatient addiction treatment program, which usually involves attending meetings, clinical sessions, peer support groups, and other treatment activities multiple times a week.
Typically, as the name suggests, this is done in an outpatient setting where the client travels to a particular location for these treatments. However, Williams said he prefers the residential outpatient method as it “keeps a thumb” on the patients, helping them stay connected with others who have the same goals as them and closer in touch with mentors or sponsors.
“The more you can keep your thumb on someone, the better chances there are,” Williams said.
Williams added that this model provides for more accountability and more structure as people go through this stage of recovery, a time that involves a significant amount of life transformation. He said the on-site aspect allows people to spend time clearing their head without going back to the same environments and same triggers that they frequented at the height of their addiction.
S.P.A.R.C. also provides services such as academic/college support, life skills education, medication management, counseling by licensed therapists and counselors, group therapy, resume assistance, and recreational therapy, according to the organization’s brochure, among other services.
The schedule consists of chores and meditation in the morning and night, with peer support, relapse prevention, individual and group therapy, and 12-step meetings throughout the day and evening. S.P.A.R.C also assists people with things like dental health and STD prevention.
“We want to help people get well both physically and mentally,” Wells said. “We think it’s important to get them back feeling good about themselves again.”
“The main focus is to keep recovery first,” Williams said. “A lot of people want to get a job or get their family back first. The problem with that is they often forget the reason things fell apart is because they didn’t have the recovery first. We just keep the focus on recovery first and everything else next. We have no control what will happen with their job or their family, but we do have control over our actions, so if we keep recovery first, we believe other things will fall into place.”
However, there are outpatient options for those who would be better suited for such a treatment plan.
Wells said people can participate in peer support and IOP programs, which totals 9 hours per week, usually spread out over 3 days.
“This helps keep that accountability and that baseline of recovery,” Wells said. “We have random drug testing, so that accountability is there. Plus, we have the life skills classes and eventually we hope to offer parenting classes.”
“We want to help people transition back into society,” Wells said. “We want to help them transition back into life because there’s so much life to live.”
Additionally, Wells said he wants S.P.A.R.C to give back to the community.
“It’s about giving back to the community,” Wells said. “We’d like to be able to give local employers willing to give people second chances solid people that are in recovery and we can hold them accountable where they are in classes with us and being tested.”
Wells said he hopes to form partnerships with local employers to help employees who are struggling with substance use disorder.
For Wells, he hopes S.P.A.R.C provides a safe place for people to come and change their lives.
“I want this to be a place that people know they can call and it’s a safe place to go,” Wells said. “A place that people can turn to and trust, and know we’re going to give them the best possible care we can.
As someone who struggled with alcoholism, Williams said he refused to admit he had a problem with drinking at all. However, his alcoholism led him down a path that led to losing custody of his son.
But now in recovery, Williams said he recently gained sole custody of his son.
“We’re not in this for the money at all,” Williams said. “It’s about the gifts of sobriety. Nothing that holds monetary value, it’s stuff like that.”
How to get help for you or someone you know
The first step to being admitted into the program is a phone call, Williams said.
“We’ll do an over-the-phone screening, and if they have Medicaid, that’s all they need,” Williams said. “If they don’t, we can get them approved for Medicaid, SNAP, all that right here in house. After we’ve done that screening and verified insurance, they can come to the door. It’s a very seamless process.”
Williams said the staff at S.P.A.R.C are there to help navigate individuals through the admission process.
You can call S.P.A.R.C at 270-858-5377