A nonprofit in Southeast Oregon is hoping to combat opioid addiction one cup of coffee at a time.
In May, the Oregon Health Authority announced it was awarding Symmetry Care Inc. a grant to fund drug treatment services in Harney County. The grant is part of the initial rollout of funds from Measure 110, the 2020 ballot measure that voters approved to decriminalize drugs while allocating more money for addiction services.
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Rather than provide traditional addiction services like counseling and education, Symmetry will use the $850,000 grant to set up a coffee shop. The nonprofit bought a building for the project in Burns, a town of 2,700 and the seat of Harney County.
Symmetry director Chris Siegner said his organization already provides more traditional treatment services, but the nonprofit hopes that running a café staffed with people in recovery from addiction could go further in helping employees stay clean.
“I’m a licensed clinical social worker, and I do treatment and see clients here, but I know that they having a job is often way more important than the therapy work that I provide,” he said. “And helping them do that is a big part of their recovery.”
Coffee with a cause
Jason Sanchez, Symmetry’s addictions and peer supervisor, said he got the idea for a coffee shop after looking at the grant requirements and considering the needs of his clients.
Sanchez said Symmetry’s clients often suffer from low self-esteem, and their prior decisions make them feel like they can’t become a productive member of society. They also lack the social support they need to maintain their recovery, Sanchez said.
Siegner said the research backs Symmetry’s approach and its clientele back this approach, too. The nonprofit got positive feedback from clients after asking for their thoughts on the proposal.
Symmetry expects the coffee shop to not only act as a source of work but also a resource hub for other treatment services. Plus, the business will have all the benefits of being a functional cafe.
“It’s going to be a place where our community can go and have a nice cup of coffee and maybe a pastry or something,” Sanchez said.
Siegner said the coffee shop will open within the next 10 months to a year, but it’s looking to employ a few clients to help out with the renovation project before then.
A barista pours milk into a latte at a coffee shop in Portland in this July 15, 2021, file photo.
Steven Tonthat / OPB