Set free from addiction; Mat-Su treatment group expanding

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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - A faith-based group is expanding its addiction treatment programs in the Mat-Su.

Set Free Alaska began about six years ago with only two or three clients. Now, the organization helps more than 120 women and children.

Executive director Phillip Licht said, "We really believe that every individual has incredible value. We love on them - we teach them practical skills."

Set Free Alaska's program is currently outpatient-based, but the organization plans on opening an in-patient residential treatment facility in August.

In January, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced that Set Free Alaska was getting a $250,000 grant to set up an in-patient treatment program for up to 16 women, including those who are pregnant. The organization then went to the Mat-Su Health Foundation, and it secured $1.5 million to purchase a former charter school building between Wasilla and Palmer.

Licht said the new facility will offer a structured environment to help clients overcome the temptations of drug addiction.

"If you think of it like, when you break your arm, you have a really hard cast that really protects that bone, and then over time you have more of a flexibility to move it. It's similar to addiction," Licht said. "First, when there's severe addiction, you want to have a really restrictive environment that's going to be very, very protective. And then we start to loosen that up over time, as they're learning skills to be in recovery."

Two graduates of Set Free Alaska's outpatient program are glad to see the expansion.

Jennifer Johnson, who recovered from drug and alcohol addiction, said, "I feel like it's so important that people realize that there's hope - that there's recovery. And no matter how deep in the hole they get, or how bad it is, or how bad they think they might have messed up, it's never too late to put your hand up and get help."

Sarah Hildebrand, who said she was addicted to alcohol and drugs from the time she was 12-years-old, stated, "They [Set Free Alaska] were willing to pray for me, with me, and pour into me. They truly care."

Currently, Johnson is studying to become a chemical dependency counselor, and Hildebrand is a peer counselor for people struggling with addiction.

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