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Staff Spotlight

We have an amazing staff at Waterfront Recovery Services. The work can be extremely challenging but day after day, they show up to support, encourage and help facilitate the change needed to maintain a healthy recovery. Our staff are the soul of the organization and we have deep appreciation for who they are and their dedication to making Waterfront Recovery what it is today.

Jamaica Bartz

Staff Spotlight - Admissions Director Jamaica Bartz

Admissions Director

Jamaica Bartz

Jamaica Bartz
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When ADCS opened Waterfront Recovery Services in November of 2017, Jamaica was recognized as a valued asset while systems and protocols were being designed to treat clients with Substance Use Disorder in the new and very different medical model program. “She can look over data and see the big picture. She gets it,” one of the founders declared. Initially a Counselor at the new facility, Jamaica quickly advanced to Lead Counselor, Admissions Supervisor and is now Director of Admissions as well as Assistant Clinical Director.

Jamaica Bartz is one of the longest team member’s at Waterfront Recovery. Originally working as a detox specialist at the social model program run by Alcohol Drug Care Services (ADCS) Jamaica attended College of the Redwoods completing the Addiction Studies Program. Tapping into her life experiences as well as her clinical studies, Jamaica enthusiastically worked her way up to Counselor and site manager.

 

Before going back to school, Jamaica was in a typical cycle of drug use, much like many of the people she helps today. From the age of 15, she used off and on for 20 years, running the streets, in and out of jail - until something clicked. She knew she could do better and that she was capable of so much more. And most important, as a mom, she wanted to be there for her children.

When asked for a report card on WRS, Jamaica says it’s “always evolving”. She notes that after several challenging years, “we’ve moved mountains” to get to a place of stability. Now that Drug MediCal is funded for this region, “it’s made a huge difference, not just financially, but in the number of people we’re able to reach”. Importantly, services include longer term residential programs and extended transitional support for people from seven Northern California counties with progressive levels of care: outpatient, aftercare, and case management services - all the things one would need to be as successful as they can be. “I don’t know many other places that ‘wrap around clients the way that we do.’ Each step is a path to successful recovery and reintegration.”

Jamaica is a perfect example of the kind of change that can happen when a person decides to embrace life. Now, in addition to her leadership roles at Waterfront, she’s a busy mom, cheer coordinator, football mom and auntie. “I’m super excited to be going to a couple of cheer competitions next month with Eureka High. My daughter is a senior varsity cheerleader and decided to join the comp team. Well, actually they begged her LOL I'm so proud of her.”

Biggest challenges day to day - “I know this sounds cliché, but not having enough hours in the day because we’re trying to reach every person who is trying to access treatment,” whether it’s a family member or an agency advocating for them, “It’s also hard to watch people start to blossom or become the person they were meant to be and just completely throw it all away, walk away.” When asked why she stays at Waterfront, Bartz tears up, “Without places like this, people like me might not have a chance. I love it. I feel like it’s a part of my life.” She talks about her daughter watching her, seeing her get strong and deciding that she wants to pursue a similar line of work. “That’s when you know you’re making a difference. Through all the trials and tribulations, this place is my baby too.”

Photos: TOP - Jamaica collaborates with Kasee Duncan. MIDDLE - Stacy Smith with Jamaica doing street outreach.

BOTTOM - WRS staff attend memorial for co-founder John McManus. back row L-R Jesse Pearson, Sean Foreman, Rebecca Camlli, front row L-R Jessica Pearson, Jamaica Bartz, Dr. Bayan.

 

Having come to Humboldt to attend the HSU Nursing Program Jackie Coghill worked as a nurse in most of the departments at St. Joseph’s Hospital for 20 years. When many of her peers were retiring, Coghill felt like she still had something to contribute. That’s when she decided to return to school to become a Nurse Practitioner.

Before going back to school at Sonoma State University, Coghill occasionally ran into Waterfront co-founder John McManus out in the community. He regularly encouraged her to come to work at Waterfront as a nurse but Coghill was set on pursuing her higher education goals.

When she returned to Humboldt, she stopped by Waterfront to drop off a resume, “totally unprepared for an interview” and was surprised to be whisked into McManus’ office for a long conversation about the innovative medical model detox and recovery program McManus and Dr. Ruby Bayan were pioneering on the North Coast. Waterfront had only been open for a year but there was a need for someone when Dr. Bayan was out. They stayed in touch. and as soon as funding was available, McManus reached out.

Coghill is a Family Practice Nurse Practitioner but a lot of people who come to WRS require more than a diagnose and prescribe type of care. They require further evaluation. She notes that it’s difficult to get a primary care physician in Humboldt so she tries to develop a primary care plan for whatever their problem is. “Some have been self-medicating for years.”

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be doing addiction medicine. My program was a family practice program. That’s what my certification is in but I guess what I do here is family practice in a way. A lot of Waterfront clients haven’t seen a doctor in many years so it’s usually more than a routine examination. Nothing in NP school could have prepared me for this population.”

“Jackie Coghill’s contributions to Waterfront Recovery cannot be overstated. Her medical expertise and understanding of where substance use disorder intersects with a patients physical and mental health care needs is incredibly unique and rare, Executive Director Jeremy Campbell says of Coghill. “She has an innate ability to work with the people entering treatment at Waterfront who often feel vulnerable and anxious as they navigate the initial stages of recovery. Jackie has been a major part in actualizing the initial vision co-founders John McManus and Dr. Bayan had for Waterfront Recovery Services and the hope is that she will continue long into the future.”
 
When asked about the unique challenges of working with this population, Coghill says, “I have personal experience with close family members struggling with the disease of addiction and alcoholism so I’m quite familiar with the impact on the family and the ripple effects.” She had never imagined coming in that these experiences would inform her work. She’s required to see clients within 24 hours of admittance and notes that communication must be on their terms in order to build a rapport and establish trust. “It’s important to Understand the impacts and that this is a family problem. Communication with the patient/addict must be on their terms so the quicker you can understand that and let that be OK, the better treatment you can give them,” she says.

“When my son was in addiction, and I was coming to work here, I had a really good friend that would say maybe you can’t help your son but you can help somebody else’s son.” There are a lot of people at WRS who are close in age to her son   “and every single one of them, I remind myself that this is someone’s son that I’m helping. I love that.” (Her son has his life back on track.)

Coghill believes that Being  able to be a communicator and not passing judgement is part of giving care. Understanding that they deserve care like any other human being or patient despite their condition upon their arrival. “Sometimes people have been out in the elements, their lives have been difficult so getting to connect with them and have them feel valued and cared for so that they can open up and tell you some of the medical problems that they’ve been pushing in the closet for years. I think I come with good communication skills and that has helped me tremendously.”

 

When asked how she knows she’s making a difference, Coghill talks about the satisfaction of knowing that pregnant women are allowed to remain at Waterfront until delivery even if they’ve completed the program and women who, after having lost custody of their children, get them back. “They come in broken and get well with love, food and sleep so they can do what’s required to be a good mom so they can get their kids back.”  She says she loves running into them in the community healthy and happy and with their kids. “That brings me joy.”

 

“I have daily inspiration for these folks because no matter how . . . some of them come in here looking rough, I mean 10, 20 years older than their age. Once we detox them, I mean it’s as comfortable as it’s going to be anywhere because we do medication assisted treatment, I can see the light back in their eyes. It’s like when they’re using, their soul has left and when I see them in the hallways and their spirit is back, and it does come back, every time I see it, I’m just overjoyed. I see it right in front of my own eyes everyday and I think about that and I know we’re helping people. I ask myself, are we helping people and am I doing any good:? I know we are.”

 

“We can’t give someone the gift of recovery for the rest of their lives, they can only give that to themselves but we can give it for a brief time here as we hold and nurture them and for that period of time, their soul is back and they are living their life. If they can hang onto that . . . that’s going to be up to them. So are we doing good? Yeah, we’re doing good because that counts. And so medical is now understanding that recovery from addiction is not a straight line. Every period of sobriety counts. It doesn’t mean that if someone has a recurrence that all is lost. You pick up where yo left off and keep going. We need to change our language around recovery and I think slowly we are.  It’s not just go to recovery and get fixed. You’re probably broken in some emotional places and have been just coping with drugs or alcohol. What we offer here is offer a place to begin the healing process from that and the first step in that is to eliminate the drugs and alcohol.”

 

Jackie Coghill

Staff Spotlight Jackie Coghill MSN FNP-C

Jackie Coghill
MSN FNP-C

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Photos: TOP - Coghill with Dr. Bayan CENTER - Coghill in her office BOTTOM - Coghill showing original art made by co-worker Ryan Colliton.

Stacy Smith, Intake Coordinator

Stacy Smith is one of the first people new arrivals to Waterfront Recovery Services will meet. Having worked here in detox, as a counselor and helping in the front office, Stacy finds her role as Intake Coordinator rewarding. “I love helping people. I remember feeling that desperate. When people are having hard times and I’m the first person they talk to, I give them the sense that everything is going to be ok. It’s that genuine empathetic compassionate conversation that you have with them.”

Stacy has always gravitated towards helping professions, previously working as a CNA, home health provider and end of life care giver. She enjoys advocating for people who aren’t able to advocate for themselves.

Emancipated at 14, Stacy was a mother at 16. “I had to grow up fast.”  She was with her children’s father for 13 years but when substances entered the picture, “My life went downhill and I lost everything.” Still vividly able to remember that time in her life, Stacy understands how Waterfront clients may feel when they arrive. This is key to Stacy’s dedication to her work. She shares her story of getting clean “the hard way,” just staying in her room, isolated and desperate.

 

When former WRS staffer, Nicki Vance, told Stacy about an opportunity to get training in an EDD program funded by the Opioid Crisis Grant, Stacy opted to train to work at Waterfront. She started in detox and continued her education to become a counselor. “It was meant for me to be here. My clean date that I celebrate is November 1, 2018,” a year to the day after Alcohol Drug Care Services opened Waterfront. Coming to work at WRS was more than an employment opportunity, it became her community, her family. “I'm thankful that John McManus and Dr. Bayan gave me an opportunity and a chance to work here. It’s given me a new life. I don’t have family here in Eureka, so besides my 12 Step family, this is my family. This is my herd."

 

And it was this herd that circled around Stacy when she got a call one afternoon during the pandemic telling her that her partner was on life support because of a fentanyl overdose. “I dropped to my knees.” Because of the pandemic and because she was “just the girlfriend,” she was only able to see him once before he passed. They had been together for almost two years, this felt solid, like the natural progression of her sobriety and professional growth.  “In two days it just . . . this place helped me stay clean. My story was here when I met him. Jackie Coghill] and Dr. Bayan . . . I don't know what I’d do without Dr. Bayan. She's a blessing. She cares a lot for her chickadees,” she laughs. “The clients are not her only chickadees, the staff is too. It's just nice to be able to feel like you can go talk to, like, I have Jamaica Bartz and Dr. Bayan that no matter what the issue is, I can go to them and they will sit and listen.” The shock of her partner passing made it hard to go back to counseling. Perhaps the hardest was  . . .  self doubt, wondering how she had missed it. She eased back into work and eventually landed in the admissions office, all the time supported by her WRS family of coworkers.

 

Stacy occasionally pulls shifts in other departments, sometimes SUD counseling or medications because she’s been trained and certified and has experience so she is able to help out where needed. “I’ve worked in every department except case management and the kitchen. I love this place. It’s cool. You know, like, if we're short staffed, I'm able to help in different departments. I used to think the work started in detox but it’s really in the admissions office. It starts with that initial phone call and that screening." Recently, after COVID restrictions were lifted, WRS staff discussed walk-in screenings for locals again. Stacy enthusiastically offered to come in early to do them. She arrives at 8 in the morning does walk-in interviews from 8 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. “It’s first come, first served. We can only bring people with alcohol use disorder on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays but with Partnership, we work with seven different counties so the walk-in process helps us bring in more people within our community." She does between one and seven screenings a day. It all starts with a phone call where she asks what substance the caller wants to detox from. If there are mental health issues or the person is intoxicated, Stacey navigates that in the process.

 

Scheduling can be tight and some screenings take longer than others so when people don’t show up, it can throw things off. She likes having that first interaction with people doing in-person screenings. “You get to see them in person, you get that connection with them right off the bat because sometimes on the phone, it’s hard to get that connection with somebody because you can’t see them, there’s no eye contact . . . A lot of our phone screenings are the people that can’t make it in and the people from out of town, from other counties.”

 

Stacy also helps out at the Women’s transitional houses, dropping in a few days a week to talk and encourage the women working to put their lives back together. This could mean helping them navigate employment or education goals or just sitting and talking about everyday issues. “I have to remember that this isn’t my personal recovery here. I do that outside of here. I just have to learn not to take stuff home. You can't work here without doing some sort of self care. Self care is a big thing for me. You know, this job isn’t easy,” she laughs. When asked about the kind of self care she does, Stacy confides, “Nails done, toes done, roller coasters, conventions to reach out to my family outside of here.” She lives with a roommate and helps care give for their aging mom. Part of that is the realization that living alone wasn’t healthy for her. But wait . . . was that roller coasters on the list of things Stacy does for self care? Yes, she sometimes takes mental health days to ride roller coasters … “I just got back from Six Flags,” she giggles. “That’s where I go for therapy, to scream and get it all out and I come back fresh, ready to start over.” Stacy continues to work on her sobriety, attending 12 Step meetings regularly. As part of her self care she’s also working to rebuild her relationships with her kids and talks about the the need for patience in this process. “I’m doing the work,” she says softly. "You know, you don't get into recovery to like, make a billion dollars, you get into recovery to help people. I've always loved helping people. I love this place. I’m here for awhile,” she laughs.

Staff Spotlight

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Stacy Smith

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Intake Coordinator

Photos: TOP - Stacy at entrance to Waterfront CENTER - Stacy tabling with co-worker Jamaica Bartz at street outreach event BOTTOM - Stacy with co-worker Kasee Duncan doing "self care."

Stacy Smith

Estelle Mitchell, Case Management

Estelle Mitchell’s story is a perfect example of courage and the power of self reinvention that defines many of her peers on the Waterfront staff. It’s also a great example of the “It takes a village” idea that makes all of us know we’re part of a bigger community that can thrive when we help each other. In Mitchell’s case, it was an employer who believed in her and gave her a second chance. And, Waterfront Recovery Services that continues to believe in her.

Mitchell shares her history. “I was in my addiction until I was about 21 years old, using anything and everything that you can imagine. I drank quite a bit, lived on the beach for six or seven years.” When she overdosed, “It sunk in that, maybe this is a problem. This isn't just like a way of life anymore. Because we’re a using family, that’s kind of the cards I was dealt; this is what we are, this is what we do and this is how it's gonna be. There’s no way to climb out of it,” was the thinking. But Mitchell decided to get clean. “I was pretty feral the first time I came here.”Her first work experiences at Waterfront were as a resident going through the program and volunteering in the kitchen. That gave her something to put on her resume when she graduated and started looking for work. “I got a job at the Chalet,” a breakfast and lunch restaurant in Eureka. “I love the Chalet. They changed my life. But I slipped back through those cracks and ended up relapsing because I couldn't stay away from my family. I went back to treatment because the Chalet put up with my shit long enough.” Chalet management saw something in her. Rather than fire her like so many other employers would do, they told her to take some time off to get clean, promising to hold her position for her.

Mitchell came back to treatment at Waterfront and returned to her job at the restaurant. “I owe a lot to the Chalet. I have so much gratitude. They’re probably the main reason why I'm working here [at Waterfront]. After the second time I got clean, the hiring manager said, Okay, now that you're back to who you were, you're even stronger. You need to be a waitress. You’re smart and you deserve the extra money.”

Mitchell felt anything but smart or deserving but because of the love and support she was getting from Waterfront staff as a former resident and the encouragement from Chalet management, she gradually gained enough confidence to do the work.When Chalet closed during the pandemic, Mitchell was once again facing new challenges. “I called Waterfront about a job and I was so nervous, I was crying,” she smiles. Expecting to work in the kitchen again, Mitchell’s familiar fears kicked in when she learned that she would be working the front desk. “But Jamaica and Jessica and Jeremy . . . the people who were kind of in beginner positions when I first came through for treatment, were now in upper positions and I would confide in them and they would tell me, ‘No, you are capable, you can do this.’"

Similarly, she conquered her fears when training to do case management. “I'm making it happen. You know, I'm really excited to be able to expand. It's a big deal. Especially for people like me who come from the streets and have nothing, are like, broken. When I come to work, I'm not just helping the clients and getting them what they need, I also get what I need from staff that work here.”Mitchell claims that her life is now just the way she wants it to be: boring. “I’m not having to run [anymore]. I would have to like, sleep with my shoes on, my skateboard under my head so that I could just be ready to go. I was pretty much a loner,” Mitchell reflects. Now, “I have stability and love and food in my fridge, my bills are paid on time. I'm in a healthy relationship with somebody who loves and cares and cries for me and with me. Whenever anything negative is to be said it's in a mellow tone and of concern. There are never any malicious words being spit at me. It’s constructive. Now I have peace but it took a lot of work and growing pains and stress and strife. I pushed myself and when hard times hit, I was able to fall back on what I learned in the program.”

Mitchell faced another challenge when she became a mom because, like one in eight women, she suffered from postpartum mood disorder. And again, with help from her friends at Waterfront, she came out strong. “My baby has a mom who’s present and wants her to be happy and healthy and . . . she goes to her appointments. I was really scared that she was going to be a girl because I didn't know what a mother relationship looks like, you know, because the only relationship me and my mom ever had was a using relationship. Yeah, she's the coolest thing in the world. I wish I had a little bit more energy for her. But that's okay. There's a balance act happening and she's incredible, the best thing ever.”

Supported by Waterfront staff, Mitchell continues to build her skills - and her confidence. Still doing case management, Executive Director Jeremy Campbell has also been training her to take on some of the administrative tasks. He too sees something in her. “I'm working side by side with Jeremy and he's understanding and going at a slow pace and he’s kind of sneaking in some of the tasks because I told him I'm not good at math. I can't do this. I can't do that. But I think he’s, in a very tactful way, slipping things in so that I don't get scared. I can tell he knows what he's doing.”

Because Mitchell likes to push through her discomfort, she's helping Waterfront fulfill our mission: To heal and empower any person with substance abuse disorder in a safe, nurturing environment to assist them in becoming a respected, responsible, productive member of the community. Estelle Mitchell is all that.

Staff Spotlight

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Estelle Mitchell

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Photos: TOP - Estelle Mitchell in the Case Management office .CENTER - Estelle training for her administrative role. . BELOW - Estelle shares a new tatoo relecting her growth.

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In an intimate interview, Kasee Duncan shares her story, marked by a journey from the grips of addiction to a life dedicated to helping others find their path to recovery. As the new Intake Coordinator at Waterfront Recovery Services, Duncan makes it a point to personally connect with new arrivals. “First thing I do, if there's someone here for an intake, I show face, shake their hand and introduce myself and let them know who I am. I want to see the people's faces that are coming in.”

A few years ago, it was Duncan who showed up at the the front door - at the appointed time, 9 am, but a week late.  She remembers that she was greeted by Nurse Practitioner Jackie Coghill  who asked, “Are you ready? Don’t mess around with us. Are you ready?” It was at that point that Duncan says, “I fully surrendered.”

 

Tired, depressed and alone on Christmas Eve with presents for her children who had been taken away, Duncan was at her lowest. It was Yvonne Guido from Two Feathers who “came and got me out of that motel room. She told me that she wasn't going to let me die. She brought me here to Waterfront. I knew it was either try now or you're going to die. You are going to die. You are sitting here all by yourself with nothing left. That's what it took for me, that point of I'm so tired of being stuck in this hole. All I want to do is look up and see the light. Whether someone reaches out and helps me up or not. I'm surrendering and choosing to see the light from the depths of this hole that I dug.”

Duncan came through the detox program at Waterfront and was then convinced by her counselor to stay in the residential program “I didn't really want to stay, but my counselor said, Hey, what's 90 days out of your life after you've been doing this for so long?  After completing the residential program, Duncan lived in the women’s transitional house for six months “learning how to get my life together, how to get a license and IDs and, you know, growing up. I just loved the people here and the way they made me feel like there was a different life possible and achievable. I was like, I really want to work here, I want to be a part of helping someone believe that there's something better out there.”

Duncan was persistent. “I kept knocking on the door, knocking on the door, hey, I want to work here. I know having a doctor like Dr. Bayan (WRS cofounder and Medical Director) helped. Her background and in practice for so many years . . . she was able to understand.” Her determination paid off and finally, “Doctor Bayan said, Okay, let's give her a chance. She's been here every day, she's doing well. And that's how I came to work here at Waterfront. I started at the front desk, and had worked there for about a year or so . . . Jamaica, Jeremy and Dr. Bayan had a meeting and decided to give me a position in admissions.”

Since then, she’s passed her Registered Certification exam and will soon start school to get her degree to become an Substance Use Disorder Counselor. “So now, I’m Casey Duncan, SUD RC Intake Coordinator of Waterfront Recovery Services,” she says proudly. In December. I'll have been here for three years. So I already have a lot of this experience. I hope by next year, to start being a counselor and having one on ones and running groups with the clients here.”

A descendent of the Wiyot Tribe and born on the Trinidad Rancheria, Duncan credits her tribal connections and Yvonne Guido of Two Feathers with showing her the way to Waterfront. And a higher power for giving her strength. “I honestly don't know what it was, Creator or something that lifted the desire to use, the obsession, the compulsion. I don't think about using. I don't want to use. I have almost four years clean I've had both of my kids for two years now.

When asked if doing this work gives her an opportunity to reflect, Duncan smiles, “Yeah, and in my role in some of these people's journeys, I get to see them out in the world . . . at Walmart shopping for home stuff because they just got an apartment and got their kids.” At this point, Duncan can’t hold back the tears. “Some of these young ladies see me and hug me tell me that if it wasn't for me telling them every day that it was possible and sharing my life story with them . . . “ As she regains her composure, she continues, “It makes me grateful that I was able to go through such a hard journey of my own. Being able to actually use that, to help people, especially young women who are trying to get their kids back, who stay out there, because of the disconnect with their family and kids. And me being able to have that in my story . . . it’s huge. A lot of times people are ashamed of their past and don't want to reflect on that or bring it up and I get to in my job. I get to use that to help people and show people that it's okay where you came from and what you were doing. That’s not you. You don't want to be that person. And you don't have to be that person.”

From early on, there was a lot of drug use and violence in the home. “My mom left with me and my sister and we lived in Seattle for years. I guess not knowing or having a dad and not knowing where you come from, we got kind of lost in the system. We were both taken from my mom multiple times by CPS in Seattle.” She goes on to describe her childhood years, occasionally happy when living with grandma or when her mom cleaned up and remarried “an amazing man” who took good care of Duncan and her sister along with their half brothers and sisters when mom fell again. But along the way, there was abuse of every kind, foster homes, gang affiliations, juvenile incarceration, and drugs.

Duncan became a mother at 20 but the trauma and dysfunction is hard to climb out of. At a very young age, her daughter was witnessing and experiencing horrific abuses. “I ended up fleeing that relationship and everything that I knew my whole life from Seattle because I knew I had a real dad here somewhere in Trinidad on the rez.” The reunion was brief when Duncan resumed the only lifestyle she knew and the cycle continued - until that pivotal day before Christmas in the motel when Duncan, now the mother of two, was at her lowest and ready to accept help.

Today, Duncan continues to build a life with her daughter and young son with a strong connection to her tribal network of support and traditions. “My daughter loves the bead work and my son is excited to see the ceremonial dances and the sweats and other community celebrations,” now regularly a part of their lives. She hopes to one day walk the path of Guido, who extended a hand from the light to forever change the trajectory of Duncan’s life.

In hindsight, Duncan says, “I believe that having the counselors at Waterfront coming from the same background helps a lot in being comfortable here. You can relate to them. Ty Zimmer, Joe Pinkard, and Rebecca Camilli . . . and Stacy Smith who I've followed every step of the way through my journey. They made it possible. Whenever you're ready and willing, this place is here. We all know what it's like. It's okay. Let us help you. Just let us help you. Let us feed you. Let us let you sleep in a bed, warm. It's okay. If you need help and you're willing to get help, this is the place to come where you're going to get that help if you're ready and willing.”

Staff Spotlight - Kasee Duncan, Intake Coordinator

Kasee Duncan
Intake Coordinator

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Photos: TOP  2 - Kasee Duncan shares her story. CENTER - Duncan in her office. BELOW - Duncan with coworkers Stacy Smith, Jamaica Bartz and Estelle Mitchell.

Kasee Duncan

Staff Spotlight

Joel Grosh
SUD Counselor

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Photos: TOP - Joel Grosh in the WRS entry and in the office. CENTER - Grosh with coworker. BELOW - Grosh on Halloween with his pet, "Hal."

Joel Grosh, SUD Counselor

Joel Grosh a Substance Use Disorder counselor came to be a part of the Waterfront team on a different path than many of his coworkers. Grosh himself does not have a history of SUD. “It's strange, it almost always felt like a calling. So my history with it is my dad was an addict, which I didn't really know growing up because he kind of kept it hidden. He was semi functional, worked most of the time and mostly had housing and was on painkillers. He had chronic back pain. So it was like one of those gray areas where I didn't really know growing up that he had a problem. But even before I knew about his problem, I just had an interest. I remember having these conversations with my dad at a young age, like, why are these guys homeless? He'd talk about mental health or their addiction issues. And I remember doing a book report on alcoholism when I was like, in fifth grade and going to a DARE camp, which is for youth prevention. And then my dad overdosed on methadone when I was 15 and died.”

As Grosh matured and started putting the pieces together, he understood that his father wasn’t a bad person. He was someone struggling with pain and isolation because of the shame and stigma attached to his dependency on pain medication. Grosh realized that there weren’t a lot of resources but there was a lot of misinformation around SUD.

Then Grosh’s brother got into drugs. After high school, his brother got into dealing drugs and became addicted to heroin. “He got into a car wreck . . . had a severe head injury and was in a coma and they pretty much told me that he wasn't going to live, or he wasn't going to live a normal life,” Grosh recalls. There was a federal case and a period of incarceration for his brother (who now functions better than expected).When asked about having that background and coming to this work from seeing someone else addicted, what do you think you bring to the table or what special insights do you think you have now in doing this work? What makes you know that you're helping? Grosh replies, “just seeing all the factors that played into my, my dad's addiction, my brother's addiction, and trying to make sense of it for myself. What led to him not finding lasting recovery? And what are the things that would have been beneficial and helpful to him? I have always kind of . . . I don't know what to call it, concern with social welfare?” As an observer of people “down and out” and struggling himself, Grosh taps into his faith feeling the need to help those who “may be misunderstood or falling between the cracks or not having having the resources to better themselves.”But delays in certification to do Substance Use Disorder work in California forced Grosh to work at a variety of jobs while he waited for the paperwork to go through. Finding affordable housing was a challenge. Some landlords wanted renters to have six times the rent in income. So he and his dogs lived in his van and in that time, he got to know a lot of homeless people in Eureka. “I guess that was sort of like my unofficial internship,” he remembers.“It was an indirect path in a sense. I did my addiction studies about eight, nine years ago in Montana, and relocated here, which was supposed to be temporary, just for the summer but I've been here eight years now.” There were a number of things that made what should have been an easy transition full of challenges that, in retrospect, connected Grosh to the work does on a deeper level.  “I did move here in my van so I knew I was going to be living in my van for a short time, but I figured it would be a few months. It was almost two years.”Through this experience, Grosh gained insight into the complex interplay of housing, homelessness, addiction, and mental health issues. “I was kind of with them and their process. Just hearing people's stories and seeing how people live  . . . I didn't have the full homeless experience in that way because I was working and living in my van and so I always had  food and I always had a paycheck coming in. Like many houseless people, Grosh frequented the places around town where he could get a warm bed for the night or a hot meal. “And that was an interesting experience. It came to a point where, because it’s transitional living, they give you like X amount of time to find a house. And my time was kind of coming up.” Grosh decided that if he didn’t find a house in the next month, he was going to hitchhike to the East Coast when one of his regular customers at the Coop where he was working came to his rescue. That customer is now Eureka City Council member, Leslie Castellano, who was running an art and food program at the previous Synapsis site next to St. Vincent’s Kitchen. It was here that they connected more. “She kind of knew my situation and she had a friend who rented houses. A few weeks before I was gearing up to leave he got in touch with me.”In 2020, Grosh joined the Waterfront staff as a detox tech. “ I was still kind of on the fence about whether I wanted to go the counseling route just because I had some reservations about not being an addict. I don't know if anyone's going to listen to me. But it came to the point where I had all my hours just from working in detox. I had all my education. So I said well, why what's it gonna hurt to just follow through and get certified? So I took the test. I think it was last January, and I passed it and started working in counseling last summer.”Now Grosh sees Waterfront graduates on the College of the Redwoods campus where he’s taking pre-nursing classes with the goal of becoming a traveling nurse in the future. He talks about the rewards in seeing alumni also attending CR or returning to Waterfront to share success stories, like reuniting with family or securing housing. It reminds him of the impact addiction counseling can have on individuals' lives and the importance of being part of a process that contributes to positive change.

Joel Grosh
KITCHEN MANAGER JESSE PEARSON

The kitchen at Waterfront Recovery Services is a critical component in bringing our patients and residents back to health. We believe that through delicious, nutritious food, we contribute to physical health and demonstrate caring. Kitchen manager, Jesse Pearson, has embraced that concept and works enthusiastically to serve wholesome, creative food to Waterfront residents.

Pearson's journey from the bustling kitchens of local restaurants to the heart of Waterfront Recovery Services is not just a career shift but a testament to his commitment to making a difference in people's lives. “I was cooking at a local restaurant when an old friend of mine, John McManus (WRS cofounder), called me and asked me if I'd be willing to consider a new gig at a place that he was running called Waterfront Recovery Services.

“John and I go way back to 1992 and my first kitchen job as a dishwasher. He was a cook at Smokey Jim's Barbeque, just an amazing place that basically fostered individuality and being your own person - and having fun. But also working really hard and putting out a lot of food. So that's where I got to know him.”


“And then later on, we became band mates. We were in a band together called Buffy Swayze for a very long time. It lasted on and off for about 10 years. After that we played for various reunion shows, memorials when friends passed away and things like that . . .  he was basically like an older brother to me.”

Pearson continued to work in restaurant kitchens all those years, some of them with John. But at some point, (John) McMannus fell down, got back up again, went to school and started working in recovery programs. Seeing the flaws and the things he would do differently, McMannus used his knowledge and tenacity to change the way recovery services are delivered. It was the fine-tuning of that vision (that included good food) that inspired McMannus to reach out to Pearson. “I came over and took a look at this kitchen. It looked great, huge and the job just promised me a lot of freedom; getting off the line and stuff like that. I wasn't fully aware of what was happening here at first. But as soon as I came to work here, it kind of dawned on me what was going on with what John’s vision was for the place.”


“I was ready for the change but I had never run a kitchen and that definitely presented some challenges. So yeah, I was I was kind of floundering a little bit - until till I hired my wife,” he laughs. “She (Jessica) came on to help me manage because she's always been a manager. And I've always been a cook. So together, we figured it out.”


When asked to describe the vision, Pearson says, “Basically to give people in recovery, struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, really good food. John just turned me loose on basically whatever I wanted to do, which meant a lot of fresh ingredients, scratch made sauces, homemade spices, just as healthy as we could get it - within our budget.”


“So even though John has passed away, Jessica and I have taken it upon ourselves to make sure that this legacy continues. We train and teach our employees in the kitchen the way we want things done, not to cut corners, to make sure that we have a good product to give the clients because it really does make a difference. It makes them feel good. And that's where it’s really his vision as part of the healing process. Good food makes you feel good. So yeah, we keep that going and it's been working really great.”
Pearson hires a lot of program graduates to work in the kitchen as a pathway to independence and to be part of the team that delivers so much more than nutritious meals to WRS clients. We've lost some of them

. . . just relapsing or quitting or what have you. But you know, some of them are just doing really well. And they're making it happen. They're going to their retreats and their meetings and their groups. They're all about it. It's inspiring to see that it can work if you're willing to put in the time.”


Pearson has had a personal connection to Substance Use Disorder from a young age. “I grew up in an alcoholic family. And so I spent my whole childhood and young adult life around addicts and alcoholics and stuff like that. It wasn't a normal thing to see people get help in my family, none of them really did. A lot of them died because of it. So growing up, I didn't really have that connection to oh, this can be remedied or this can get better. It just wasn't a real thing. And I had my own struggles with alcohol and drug addiction as a young person. I just kind of tapered out of it in my own way without having to go to a facility, probably should have at one point. When I came here, I realized that there was this whole network of people that really work hard and try to make this happen and stick with it for years and years. It fosters hope because you can see that help is available for people and that they just really have to work hard for it. It's not easy.”
 

Actually, both Jesse and Jessica Pearson were doing this work for years prior to coming to Waterfront. Before Jesse was 21, they got custody of his younger siblings. “My mom and my stepdad were really, really bad alcoholics, to the point of the kids suffering,” Pearson remembers when he talks about leaving home at 17. “Without me there, it got a lot worse because I was the oldest and I was the one that kind of looked out for them. But, you know, I just I had to get out. A couple years later, one of my sisters and my brother came to live in our house.” They fought through the courts for a long time to eventually get legal guardianship. “My other sister went to live with Jessica's mom who lives next door.” Jessica’s mom was a foster parent for 25 years.  “So basically it was like a compound where kids that were being abused or neglected could feel safe. From there, we raised them, and now they're incredible adult human beings. Yeah, and we also had our own son at the time who was already three or four when I met Jessica, so we had a lot of kids in a small space but it was great. You know, it worked.”


And it’s still working. That love and sense of family is how the WRS kitchen is run. It’s not without challenges but together, they do an incredible job of making it work. “One of the day to day challenges is the cost of food, trying to maintain the integrity of what we want this kitchen to be while costs climb to astronomical heights. Right now we're working with Food for People, going out to the bread store, getting our bread a lot cheaper . . . that’s really helped. Anytime we can cut down food costs to make sure we can still keep this the way we want it - because we do come under scrutiny from time to time, we keep our eyes open. We're constantly going to different stores, whoever's got the deals or whatever.”


But they do so much more. Every holiday, even the sometimes overlooked holidays, are celebrated with special food and festive decorations from the kitchen to bring joy to WRS residents. “Before Jessica came on board, I couldn't have ever even thought about having the time to do that,” Pearson admits.  “She really fostered that whole program because every holiday . . .  we just had a Chinese New Year last Friday, you know, we did a bunch of Chinese food in the fun to-go boxes with chopsticks and the clients loved it. Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, we did a Mardi Gras themed day for food. We had muffulettas and red beans and rice. They really appreciate the extra steps and care we put into our food and celebrating the holidays. And it's not just Christmas and Thanksgiving. It's Cinco de Mayo and . .  . today's Valentine's Day and we're working on a bunch of gift baskets for all the clients, you know, then there's St. Patrick's Day and . . .  like no stone goes unturned. And the clients love it and really appreciate it.


The Pearsons are a rare and wonderful example of a collaboration that works like a well-oiled machine - personally and professionally. “We’re very lucky in that we work together, we live together, we do everything together, and we seemingly are okay with it. I mean, so far, so good,” he laughs.

JESSE PEARSON

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Photos: TOP - Kitchen Manager Jesse Pearson  at the BBQ every Friday during the summer.

Jesse & Jessica Pearson run the WRS kitchen together

CENTER - Pearson prepping food from scratch  and at his desk in the kitchen office

BELOW - Pearson in his office. and in the kitchen with Jessica making a special Valentines Day dessert.

Jesse Pearson
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