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Safe Haven

The East Bay Recovery Center opens its doors in Bristol

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We often think of substance abuse as a “big city” issue. But Tom Joyce, director of the East Bay Recovery Center on Hope Street in Bristol, points out that it’s not just an urban problem. “Substance abuse disorders affect every community,” he says, “and there were no resources available in East Bay region for recovery support.”

That need led East Bay Center, a division of East Bay Community Action Program (EBCAP), to open the recovery center May 2 after a soft opening in April. EBCAP leaders had the vision to create a recovery center in the region, says Joyce. Their motivation: “How can we build a recovery community here to engage more people and provide more services?”

Getting the recovery center up and running was a challenge due to limited funding, Joyce admits, but he found local support. Emily Pearce-Spence of the Bristol Health Equity Zone helped the center secure a small grant to rent space. Reverend Canon Elizabeth Habecker, priest-in-charge of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, offered the church’s parish hall, which previously had been used as a community food bank.

Within its first three weeks, Joyce says about 120 people visited the center. The center provides peer-to-peer recovery support, along with a full range of EBCAP’s resources: a human services team visits the center twice monthly to help local residents apply for food stamps and heating assistance, among other programs.

While Joyce wants to expand beyond the current nine hours of operation each week, the center is still seeking sustainable funding. He’s optimistic: the center’s opening in the parish hall of St. Michael’s Church attracted almost 150 attendees, including Governor Raimondo and local dignitaries and community members. The town’s administration, police, and local business leaders have been supportive of the facility, and Joyce reports that he hasn’t yet encountered any negative responses to the center’s presence.

“We’re here to sell hope,” he adds. “If we can give someone a glimmer of hope and guide them and partner with them and their family on their journey to recovery and support them afterward, miracles happen. It’s fitting that we’re in a church because we see miracles every day that happen here.” Bristol