A national nonprofit that uses physical activity and social connection to help people recover from substance misuse is expanding into Southern New Hampshire, planning to introduce programs on the Seacoast, and in Manchester, Concord and Nashua.
The Phoenix, founded in Colorado in 2006, relies on donated gym space, outdoor sites, and volunteers to provide its free classes, requiring only that participants be sober for 48 continuous hours.
Sydney Durand, the nonprofit’s New England regional director, said The Phoenix sees the numerous outdoor recreational activities in New Hampshire as a benefit to those trying to find a new path as they move on with their lives.
The Phoenix is looking to hire a full-time program manager and full-time program coordinator to deploy volunteers who want to lead activities for people in recovery. Its programs can be followed alone, or in combination with traditional forms of treatment.
“What makes the model unique is that at The Phoenix, we try to really create a culture of healing. A lot of times substance use is a part of a bigger issue,” Durand said.
Since its founding, 42,000 people have participated in The Phoenix’s programs, including 1,500 people in Massachusetts in 2020, according to Durand.
Durand said the organization is looking to expand into Southern New Hampshire because of the continuing opioid crisis in the Granite State. The New Hampshire Drug Monitoring Initiative’s overview report shows that as of Jan. 15, 2021, drug overdoses were projected to account for 402 deaths in 2020.
Strafford County had the highest suspected drug use overdose deaths, with 3.1 deaths per 10,000 population. Hillsborough County was second, with 2.9 deaths per 10,000 population. The age group with the largest number of overdose deaths was the 30- to 39-year-old population, which made up 32% of the deaths, according to the overview.
Eric Spofford, executive chairman for Granite Recovery Centers in Salem, said that there is room in the state for any number of recovery models. He supports the approach The Phoenix takes when it comes to focusing on physical activity.
“I think it’s a great idea. I’m a big fan of the work they do,” Spofford said.
Even though drug and alcohol use can take a toll on a person’s body, physical fitness is often overlooked when it comes to recovery, he said.
Scott Strode, founder and executive director of The Phoenix, said the program’s expansion has been made possible by the Stand Together Foundation, as well as local partners including the Ted and Doris Lee Family Foundation; The Brook Casino in Seabrook; New Hampshire House of Representatives Majority Leader Jason Osbourne, R-Auburn, and Latitude Learning Resources Founder and Director Sharon Osbourne.
“I spent the early years of my recovery in New England, so building a community in New Hampshire is close to my heart,” Strode said in a statement.
Greg Lee, president of Eureka Casino Resort, said he and his parents, Ted and Doris Lee, are focused on ways they can help the communities they serve outside of the charitable gaming realm.
Their company operates properties in Seabrook, Mesquite, Nev., and Las Vegas
The Brook, their employee-owned business on New Zealand Road in Seabrook, has a new poker room. Staff there are planning to use the track out back and some of their parking lot space for outdoor fundraising events this year.
“Our business and the relationship we have with charities who are doing good, we believe in that model,” Greg Lee said.
Jason Osbourne said in a statement that he looks forward to seeing the impact The Phoenix will have on people.
“Addiction is a major problem in our state and to solve it we need to promote solutions that empower people closest to the problem to address the issue,” he said in statement.
The Phoenix (www.thephoenix.org) operates in 43 cities across 22 states and has an organizational mission of helping 1 million people within the next four years.