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Partnership gets people substance use treatment & care for their pets

Addicted Utah:{ }Partnership gets people substance use treatment & care for their pets (Photo: KUTV)
Addicted Utah: Partnership gets people substance use treatment & care for their pets (Photo: KUTV)
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A brand new partnership makes sure people's pets get taken care of while they're in substance use treatment.

Odyssey House and the nonprofit Ruff Haven recently made an agreement to make the program happen.

"Ruff Haven is a facility that provides crisis sheltering for animals when their people are experiencing some sort of crisis," explained Marisa Hernandez, director of operations for Ruff Haven.

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The nonprofit has helped people who endure domestic violence, health problems, natural disasters and more.

"We started kind of right during COVID and it's just gotten busier and busier," Hernandez said.

Ruff Haven will take in pets for Odyssey House clients for up to 90 days for free while people get inpatient treatment there.

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"It's just amazing how hard these people are working for their pets and what's keeping them motivated," Hernandez said.

Staff does weekly check ins, sends pictures and gives health updates to clients until they can be with their pet again.

"Reunifications are just the highlight," Hernandez said. "It just means so much."

"It's like a marriage made in heaven to help people get out of a life of hell," said Randall Carlisle with Odyssey House.

Carlisle said this partnership removes a big barrier to seeking treatment.

"I've talked to so many people who say I'm not coming into treatment because of my pet; now they can't say that anymore," he said.

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Many people dealing with substance use and addiction issues have lost all connections, except for their pet.

"The ideal situation is the person will come out of treatment as a whole person and they'll be reunited with their pet and it'll be a happy ending for everyone," Carlisle said.

Steve Flores recently got out of residential treatment with Odyssey House and is reuniting with his cat, Gilly.

He adopted the two-year-old cat just a few months before he decided to get treatment for alcohol use.

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"Came to a point where I couldn't function without it," Flores said.

Because Odyssey can't take in pets, he would have to leave Gilly behind to get sober.

"I was kind of stuck between a hard place and a rock," he said.

But he was able to find Ruff Haven to take Gilly in so he didn't have to worry about his new friend. Having the frequent check ins and updates help Flores stay at ease during his treatment.

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"I was excited the whole way here," Flores said about his reunion with Gilly at Ruff Haven.

He's ready for his fresh start in life on the path to recovery with Gilly at his side.

"I feel great, really great," Flores said. "I mean, just got to keep the ball rolling and keep progressing."

According to the partnership, if someone needs more treatment after those three months, Ruff Haven will continue to care for their pet and get reimbursed by Odyssey House.

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