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Navigating the Road to Recovery: Amy’s Story

Amy’s* story is one of hope and tenacity, with common themes and a plot that is familiar to far too many people in our community. Amy’s story highlights her road to recovery from alcohol dependency and the incredible support offered by the behavioral health professionals at Gunnison Valley Health. For Amy, a few days and two of these incredible people have forever changed her story and her life.

Amy has received behavioral health services for several years and developed a strong relationship with Gunnison Valley Health’s Behavioral Health Director, Kimberly Behounek. Recently, Amy’s life reached a breaking point, so she reached out to Kimberly for a lifeline to help her leave a domestic violence situation and begin treatment for her substance use disorder.

Kimberly and Gunnison Valley Health Peer Support Specialist, Chris Nikel, helped Amy leave her dangerous home environment and placed her in a hotel while they waited for an apartment to be ready. This type of support is a not a part of traditional behavioral health services. Funding was only possible thanks to a grant received from the Rocky Mountain Health Foundation.

That week was extraordinarily difficult for Amy on many levels – for someone struggling with substance use disorder, the stress of ending a relationship and upending her entire life took a toll. Kimberly, Chris and Amy worked together to develop a safety plan and Amy agreed to check in throughout the weekend from her hotel room, but this never happened. When Amy also didn’t show up for her scheduled appointment on Monday, Kimberly knew something was very wrong. Kimberly immediately began calling Amy at the hotel but got no answer. After several unanswered calls, Kimberly and Chris went directly to Amy’s hotel room to try and make contact with her.

“Kimberly and Chris were angels that knocked on the door,” explained Amy. “I fully believe I would have died without them.”

Once they made contact, Kimberly never left Amy’s side. They called the Gunnison Valley Health Paramedics to transport Amy to the emergency room. Kimberly followed the ambulance to the emergency room, and stayed by her side in the room until she was more stable. Amy ended up detoxing from alcohol in the hotel room, but Kimberly and Chris were there to support her and ensure that she was as safe as possible during the painful process.

Chris was able to get Amy a bed at the RESADA inpatient treatment facility in Las Animas and arranged transport to the facility. Amy entered the facility on Thursday of the same week, starting the next phase of her recovery. Kimberly and Chris kept in communication throughout to ensure that Amy remained sober and in control.

“It didn’t matter if it was their days off,” said Amy. “Kimberly and Chris kept advocating for me. They brought me food and my medications while I was in the hotel room. They kept in constant contact with me, even while I was in RESADA.”

When Kimberly talks about Amy’s story, she explains that this is non-traditional work for a therapist, it is work more typical from a peer support specialist.

“We help navigate all the logistics and nuances of systems,” said Kimberly. “These nuances get in the way of recovery. My why for doing this job is my staff who can connect with people in their darkest places. We are real people with real connections, and we know the cycle and we are not judgmental. We just want to help folks live the best life they can.”

“Gunnison has a serious drug and alcohol issue,” explained Amy. “The peer support specialists are doing an amazing job identifying this issue and supporting people. It is not easy.”

Amy’s connection with the Gunnison Valley Health behavioral health team runs deep. Kimberly attended a recent oncology appointment with her for support in case of a re-diagnosis. Kimberly and Chris remain in contact with Amy to support her as she moves to a new stage in her recovery.

“I feel that we have a deep and long relationship ahead of us,” said Amy. “What really keeps coming to my mind is that people who suffer substance use issues in the valley need to really try and trust the process, as well as people like Kimberly and her staff. They meet you where you are at, with absolutely no judgement. They hung in there with me and were able to help me see some ray of hope when I was completely defeated and were a total game changer for me after several failed recovery attempts. With their continued support and faith in me, I am currently living in a sober living house. There are no words for Kimberly and Chris… I am so grateful and will forever believe that they saved my life."

*Please note that this name is fictional to protect patient privacy