Valley Joins Together To Create Treatment Center


Valley Joins Together To Create Treatment Center

By Father Terry Brennan
How do good things get accomplished in Northern New Mexico?  With teamwork. It starts with one person helping another.  Then groups of people reaching out to help others.  We see this with the St. Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen, which serves hundreds of meals a week and with the homes that Habitat for Humanity builds. We see it at the Rock Christian Fellowship, where that congregation has reached out in so many kind-hearted ways to help others.  Inside-Out, with offices at the Rock, also brings together Good Samaritans to help our friends and family members fighting addictions.  And so here is a story of another group of our neighbors who organized at Ohkay Owingeh a few years ago to be part of the solution to drug and alcohol addiction.

Due to New Mexico’s modest population and small tax base, there are not a lot of funds for government programs geared toward people trying to overcome addictions.  What are the chances that a new program would be funded to start a women’s long-term treatment facility?  Thanks to our governor and the support of several of New Mexico’s state departments, we now have Sangre de Cristo House.

The idea to open up a women’s transitional living facility sprung up five years ago when a prayer group called Apostles of the Sacred Heart felt called to do this.  Their vision was to provide a place of healing of body, heart, mind and soul in a tranquil setting for those suffering addiction  After meeting for several years at San Juan Church, this group contacted Governor Martinez’ office, and amazingly, they were asked to meet with New Mexico Behavioral Health Office.  The Apostles of the Sacred Heart were asked to open a home for women. It would be the only program in New Mexico that is long-term or  more than 30 days.  The Apostles knew that this was their calling.  They responded and it worked.

In January 2015, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart got involved with Interfaith Leap, Inc. For 13 years I-Leap operated programs out of the John Hyson School in Chimayo to help people in the Espanola Valley. I-Leap formed when many pastors and community leaders gathered with ideas to address addiction issues.  Jose Villa of La Villita was the “spark plug” to get everyone organized and meet together.  Also, many people remember Ray Chavez, former Santa Fe County Commissioner and President of the Espanola Presbyterian Hospital Board.  Almost singlehandedly, Chavez ran the food distribution program, the WIC program, the TANF program and many other services that benefitted hundreds of people in the Valley.  With the good record of service in the Valley, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart teamed up with I-Leap to apply for the grants and contracts in order to open the transitional treatment facility. The I-Leap Board decided to name the women’s program Sangre de Cristo House.

Images of new womens treatment center created by teh hard work and donations of valley residents. Courtesy images

Today, 15 months after receiving its first woman client, Sangre de Cristo serves 16 women who are seeking sobriety while working on programs to build up their lives for the future.  The program lasts a minimum of 90 days and can last up to a year.  The women in the program come from all over New Mexico.  Most are young: 18-26 years old, but some clients have been older than 40.  Sangre de Cristo House welcomes pregnant women or women with small children; the children live with their mothers in the program. This encourages the mothers to complete the program since they will not be separated from their children.  

The women are in the classroom on an average of 35 hours a week.  Los Alamos Labs comes down and offers GED classes. Other online classes are also available.  The women are required to take classes in parenting, nutrition, wellness, grief, employment preparation, as well as counseling sessions.  There is 24 hour supervision and spiritual direction available on site.  The women also take care of 30 chickens, two ducks, and a pygmy goat is soon to arrive.  Where does all this take place?

In the small community of Pena Blanca, located midway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque and sandwiched between Cochiti and Santo Domingo Pueblos, there is a large adobe house that once was the rectory of Franciscan Friars at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.  Here, the women perform volunteer work in the community with food distribution.  They work out at the community center.  They helped to organize a volleyball fundraiser.   They go on outings and hiking trips together.  Coming soon will be classes offered by Santa Fe Community College in areas of baking, cooking and organic gardening,

Because Sangre de Cristo House is funded mostly by governmental grants and contracts, it allows the program to offer four beds to women who cannot pay for the program.  Since the program owes its existence to the good people in the Espanola Valley, there will always be two beds open to women from here, free of charge.

One of the obstacles that women face when coming out of rehabilitation is employment.  To help with this, Sangre de Cristo House is purchasing a large adobe building in October to renovate it into a restaurant.  In this way, the women in the program can earn money, gain job skills, and have something on their resume to show employment rather than a “gap” when they apply for their next job.  The restaurant will also benefit the local communities and Pueblos since there is no restaurant within 25 miles of Pena Blanca.  To reach out to the elderly, the restaurant will also deliver meals.   If all goes well with the chickens and the organic garden, some of the food will be produced locally.  Sangre de Cristo House, which sprang from a hope and a prayer the size of a mustard seed, is another example of the community coming together to do good things for each other.