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Butte SPIRIT Center Executive Director Demetrius Fassas, left, and Board of Directors member Sean Wisner at the organization’s first recovery home at 609 West Galena in Butte. (Photo courtesy of Demetrius Fassas)

Men seeking to recover from substance abuse now have an option that is close to home. 

The Butte SPIRIT (Silver Bow Persons Invested in Recovery and Inner Transformation) Center provides three to six months of a transitional living environment to help men, age 18 and up, make the move towards sober, independent living. 

“People struggle to understand what recovery looks like. You expect to go through a 28-day program and be healed. But treatment isn’t a ‘one and done’ thing; It means changing your whole life, developing coping skills. Transitional housing helps lengthen the supportive environment in which you can succeed with your recovery,” said Demetrius Fassas, executive director of the Butte SPIRIT Center. 

The Butte SPIRIT Center serves the Butte-Silver Bow community, but welcomes those from other areas as well. 

Fasses, as well as everyone on the organization’s Board of Directors is in recovery. 

It’s a peer-driven organization, said Fassas, who said that after he was in treatment in 2015, it was hard to find a sober living environment in Butte.

That’s why the Butte SPIRIT Center, a facility licensed by the state, was started, he said. 

Those entering the program come from a variety of backgrounds, with many referred by the Montana Chemical Dependency Center, which is a 28-day program, as well as the Department of Corrections or other agencies. 

New referrals are provided with a chemical dependency evaluation to determine if the program is an appropriate fit, said Fassass. 

Unlike a 28-day program, which is 24-hours a day and highly structured, the Butte SPIRIT Center helps people transition from that heavily supervised environment to one where they are eased back into independent living. This is achieved by allowing the resident to direct his own recovery program, and there is a six hour a week of mandatory recovery-related programming. 

The SPIRIT program, which is generally three to six months but can go as long as nine months, has three phases — orientation to the program, skill building and learning coping skills to prevent relapses, as well as education and job training, if desired. The third phase is to help the individual find a new permanent home, or if returning to their family or former community, making sure there is support there, said Fassass. 

Those who enter must have at least 30 days of continuous sobriety. 

The biggest error for those with substance abuse problems is going through treatment and thinking they’re healed in a month, said Fassass. 

“It’s a lifestyle choice. You have to take as many steps out as going in. A lot of people don’t realize that they have to change everything,” he said. 

Up to seven men can live in a newly remodeled house in uptown Butte, with one live-in assistant resident manager and a one full-time weekday resident manager. Those living in the house are expected to pay $450 a month and that covers rent and utilities. All the basics are provided — food, toiletries, household goods and linens. 

The Butte SPIRIT Center has partnered with the Community Counseling and Correctional Services Inc., which operates the Southwest Montana Addiction, Recovery and Treatment program, or SMART, and provides licensed addiction counselors and outpatient groups and that is billed separately. 

Several residents have joined the house and two are completing Phase 1 of their recovery process, holding steady jobs as they continue their transition to sober, independent living.

The need for sober men’s living is great in Butte, according to co-founder Sean Wisner. 

In 2017, the Butte Silver-Bow Health Department, in partnership with St. James Healthcare, surveyed area residents, health care providers, and community leaders through a Community Health Needs Assessment. Substance abuse ranked as a serious issue, with 47 percent of respondents saying their lives had been negatively affected by substance abuse. In the 2020 assessment, 71 percent of survey respondents cited substance abuse as a major problem in the community, with 94 percent saying it was a major or moderate problem.

“Our goal is to serve people that want recovery. We’re not there for people wanting to check boxes,” said Fassass.  

The Center receives financial support from grant-funded agencies, such as Gianforte Family Foundation, Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Wisner Family Foundation, Montana Healthcare Foundation, Montana Mental Health Trust and Anaconda Community Foundation.

In addition to accepting new residents, the SPIRIT Center is looking for prospective members to expand its board. For more information, view the website at https://buttespirit.org or contact the Butte SPIRIT Center at 406-640-8069.

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