Momenta addiction recovery center specializes in treating women and mothers
May 13, 2018
Mandy Owensby says she spent ample time trying to control her drinking, but it wasn't working.
One morning she says she woke up feeling "invisible," and on that morning, she heard a little voice in her head that said she deserved a better life.
"So I just started looking at how I could get some help," she said. "I felt that I was slowly losing everything that mattered to me, and the next thing I was going to lose were my children."
She and a team of clinicians and program directors have just opened a new drug addiction recovery center on South Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs, and the inpatient and outpatient residential program specializes in treating women and mothers with drug addiction.
She says this has been a goal of hers for a while.
"We saw a huge gap in services in the valley, specifically for mothers and women in general," Owensby said.
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The mother of two, who grew up in Aspen and now lives in Glenwood Springs, has a long history of employment in human services in the valley, and she says one underlying message she kept hearing from women and mothers was that the solution was to send them out of the area for treatment.
In Colorado, she said, "We send more people out of the state than most other states in the country," and for her, the experience was similar.
"When I was seeking treatment for myself, I could not find a program that would take me and my kids. My options were really limited, and I had to piece together different programs to make it work for myself," she said.
The program, Momenta, is both a mental health and drug addiction treatment facility.
filling a void
Owensby says there are only three other programs in the state like it, and all three of those locations — in Pueblo, Denver, and Grand Junction — have long waiting lists.
"In my years living here, I've seen higher levels of substance abuse as well as suicide in these mountain communities," she said.
She and Bailey Allison, a clinician at Momenta, both say that there are certain factors that contribute to high levels of addiction.
They say a large economic disparity and a lack of resources like the shortage of psychiatrists and doctors in rural areas are all contributing factors.
"I know that we certainly live in a playground and that party culture is socially accepted and it's hard to see when somebody is having a problem until its really severe," she said, adding that that's why the program specifically focuses on healing mothers.
A lot of mothers who struggle with drug addiction won't get help until the problem is severe, Owensby said.
"There's fear of potentially losing their children. It's a medical and mental health condition, but it's not often seen that way.”
She predicts that as people learn of the new program, she too will have a waiting list.
The two-building facility can house up to 18 women in one house and up to six women in another.
The latter facility is for mothers who have already received treatment and don't yet feel ready to transition back into work and parenting.
Owensby and Allison say there are certain "triggers" that can affect a person’s recovery, and that might be why an additional stay is necessary.
Owensby says after she left a two-week treatment plan, she was being triggered all the time by stress and trauma, adding that those factors could easily cause someone in recovery to crave using.
That's why she asks women entering her program to commit to 90 days of treatment because, "That's kind of the magic number with rewiring the brain and changing habits. The longer someone is in care, the longer they are to be successful with their long-term recovery," she said.
The program uses the 12-step treatment model, and focuses on nutrition, meditation, fitness, therapy sessions, family therapy and more.
Owensby says she and her cohort believe that this is a family disease, so treating women and mothers and sending them back into the community is not going to be as beneficial as treating the whole family.
Allison, a clinician at the facility, says she's been administering outpatient therapy since 2013 and focuses on resolving trauma.
She says a person who experiences trauma, especially at a young age, is more likely, depending on the severity and the frequency of the trauma, to be a substance abuser.
In other words, if someone has a number of unresolved traumas in their life, they will likely develop a substance abuse disorder.
"In some ways substance abuse, from a neurological perspective, it lives in the same part of the brain as trauma does," she said.
"It lives in the part where our fight, flight or freeze responses are," Allison said. "It's very automatic, and once you develop an addiction, your brain says if you stop this, you will die."
Understanding that trauma is the root cause of drug addiction helps those who haven't experienced it themselves, Allison said. It helps to understand that it's a disease and not a choice, she added.
One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, says she believes trauma was what caused her daughter's addiction.
She attributes it to when she divorced her daughter's father, and although she says the marriage wasn't working, she wishes she had stayed in the marriage for her daughter's sake, who, she says, "hated" the fact that they split.
She asked to remain anonymous for her family's privacy, adding she has dedicated her daughter's home to a sober living facility in Glenwood Springs, which is also kept private for the safety of the women in the program.
She says her daughter struggled with drug addiction for years before dying from an overdose on May 2, 2017.
She said crystal meth, alcohol, heroin, OxyContin, Adderall, alcohol and Xanax were all found in her daughter's system, and even so, nobody really noticed she had a drug problem beforehand.
"She wasn't fine, and nobody saw it. That's what makes me angry,” she said of her daughter.
“What's wrong with our society that nobody picked up on that," she asked, adding that she too, hadn't even really noticed her daughter’s addiction.
She was living in Alabama at the time, and her daughter in Colorado.
"People need to look, and if they see something, they don't need to avoid it," she said.
"Who cares if the person will get mad at you," she asked. "People have to speak up."
At the time of her daughter's death, she said her daughter left behind a child, as well.
Her mother says nothing can replace a mother's love, and that's why this new addiction recovery center is needed.
"I think when people get on drugs, they think they can wake up in the morning and it'll be OK," she said.
"If someone can get clean, then they save their children," she added.
"Think of the heartache [my grand daughter] goes through every morning. It's just sad, and that's why you need this program, to save a child, to save a family."
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