A lifeline to women, Meta House gets lifeline of its own (MJS 12/12/16)

Taken from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12/12/16

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You remember Laurie Hastings don’t you? The girl next door? Honor student? Sang in the choir? Ever wonder what happened to Laurie?

Well, after high school, she met the wrong guy, had a baby and became a heroin addict.

That’s not her entire story, thanks to Meta House, an agency that, since 1963, has been providing alcohol and drug abuse services specifically designed for women and their families.

Originally a single house (it had belonged to a woman named Meta Orth, hence its name) with enough room to treat seven women recovering from alcoholism, Meta House provided services to 424 women and 242 children in 2015.

Besides its Riverwest campus at the old St. Casimir school, rectory and convent, Meta House also manages 27 apartments for transitional housing and Shorewood House.

Meta House’s mission has perhaps never been so critical.

The organization estimates that more than 18,000 women struggle with addiction in Milwaukee.

According to the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office, a record 262 people have died from drug overdoses by the end of November 2016, outstripping the 254 total deaths in 2015, which was itself a record.

But finances are tight. The agency learned earlier this year that several federal grants it relies on have been eliminated, including a key grant that supported transitional services for its residential treatment program.

“Meta House is one of many nonprofit organizations faced with the challenging reality of providing services with dwindling financial resources,” said Amy Linder, Meta House’s president and CEO.

Dwindling finances even as loans, taken out to expand its Riverwest campus, came due.

In response, Bader Philanthropies has awarded Meta House a $500,000 low-interest loan. The agency will use the money to pay down its market-rate debt and use the savings for programming.

“This loan will ensure Meta House can remain focused on empowering women who are making the courageous choice to break the cycle of addiction,” Linder said.

Daniel Bader, president and CEO of Bader Philanthropies, said his organization is all about working with strong agencies that are having a large impact in critical areas — agencies exactly like Meta House. Milwaukee is drowning under a Tsunami of drug abuse.

“We are in an epidemic in Milwaukee right now,” he said.

Laurie Hastings was swept into the flood and, through Meta House, pulled from the water.

Laurie graduated from Oak Creek High School in 2008 planning to start college in the fall. Instead, she found herself drifting in and out of a dead-end relationship. Their son was born in 2011.

“We were going to be one happy family,” she said recently. “That didn’t happen.”

Laurie and her boyfriend became addicted to prescription opiates — an expensive habit. Pills, she said, were $20 apiece. Together, they consumed 10 or 12 a day.

Heroin was cheaper.

She lost custody of her son. Lost her apartment. Hit what she thought was the bottom and just sank lower.

In 2014, two weeks after overdosing in the backseat of her boyfriend’s car, Laurie enrolled in Meta House’s residential treatment program.

“I was done,” she said.

“I had reached that point of desperation and hopelessness, and I was willing to do whatever it took to stay clean.”

She’s been clean ever since.

So, actually, that’s what happened to Laurie Hastings.

She faced down a lethal monster. With the help of Meta House, she found a way back into her life. She’s sober, in college and works downtown. She has re-established her relationship with her son. She is moving forward.

She’s alive.

Read the story on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website here.