Point of View: Set Free Alaska wants to work better with Homer

For the last seven months Set Free Alaska has been pursuing the development and launch of a residential treatment center for men in Homer. During this time, I have fallen in love with Homer’s natural beauty and her people. This process has been both exciting and difficult. Through the challenges faced there are lessons learned along the journey. As I share a few, please accept my apology to the city, the community in general and the neighbors in the Taku Subdivision. Some of these challenges may have been prevented if I had known then what I am learning now.

Lesson One: Residents of Homer feel a sense of ownership and involvement in what happens in their community. Though positive, it has made it difficult for us as “outsiders.” Involving community members in a meaningful way is something we will be working diligently on moving forward. We will accomplish this primarily through involvement and communication with the Opioid Task Force, the core group in Homer addressing the issue of addiction.

Lesson number two: Having local leadership is crucial to success. In response to this lesson I am pleased to announce Josh and Liz Garvey to the Set Free Board of Directors. The Garveys joined our board in June of this year. Both are long-time Homer residents and vitally involved in the local faith and business sectors. They bring wisdom, experience, and a passion for those struggling with addiction to our team. We will announce our program leadership team soon, three of the four being Homer residents.

Lesson number three: Communication with those near our residential location must happen as early as reasonably possible. We understand individuals and businesses have concerns related to a residential program near them. Respectful dialog with those potentially impacted is both important and meaningful. Moving forward, we will make every attempt to meet with neighbors located on the same street as any property we consider, or those who are close enough to visibly see our location from their home. We also will not pursue property within any neighborhood with covenants unless invited.

Lesson number four: Although there has been significant progress made, there is still need for discussions around the stigma associated with addiction. I am convinced that most residents in Homer see the need for and are supportive of residential treatment. However, the perception of individuals with addiction issues, and the stigma associated with those individuals is a significant challenge in Homer as well as Alaska. These individuals are daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, neighbors, and Alaskans. Homer has incredible residents in recovery who contribute to the community in significant ways. I hope that we can partner with Homer to see this stigma changed over time through thoughtful and respectful conversations.

Thank you all for your patience with us as we endeavor to develop and implement Homer’s first residential substance abuse treatment program for men. As a dear friend of mine always says, “learning is occurring.”

Philip Licht is an ordained minister, the founding CEO of Set Free Alaska, and owner of Catalyst for Transformation. As a statewide leader, Philip serves on several boards including Recover Alaska and the Governor’s Advisory Board for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse of which he is the Chair Elect. Philip is skilled at establishing relational networks, building infrastructure, and developing systems that facilitate agency growth, community involvement, and personal freedom. Philip has his Six Sigma Black Belt from Villanova University and is a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Executive LEAD program. He was recognized by Alaska’s Governor Sean Parnell as one of the “Great Alaskans” of 2012 for his work in the substance abuse field. He resides in Palmer, Alaska with his wife and five children.