Women’s Wellbeing: Addressing Substance Use in Arizona

Native Ways Program_drumming

Interview with Aimee Graves, President and CEO, The Haven

Research shows that women are more likely than men to face multiple barriers to accessing substance abuse treatment and are less likely to seek treatment. Since 1970, The Haven has been addressing those barriers in Tucson, Arizona, by putting women on the path to recovery. We spoke with Aimee Graves to learn how the National Council member organization is reuniting families, rebuilding communities and strengthening mother-child bonds through the process of healing.

How are you bridging the substance use treatment gap for women?

“When The Haven was founded in 1970, there were no substance use recovery centers in Tucson for women and their children. More than 50 years later, there still aren’t many recovery services designed specifically for women and their families. We know that women often experience greater levels of stigmatization around substance use because of their traditional societal roles as mothers and caregivers. In addition, women are more likely than men to face multiple barriers to accessing substance use treatment, including finding reliable and safe childcare, having the time to attend regular treatment sessions because of family responsibilities and lack of transportation.

“I’m proud that The Haven is able to break down these barriers and provide women and their children a safe and supportive environment to heal. The Haven allows women to bring their young children into treatment with them, and we provide clients with parenting classes and support with their department of child safety (DCS) cases. Studies have shown that allowing children to stay with mothers and providing ancillary support through prenatal, child and parenting programs increases mothers’ lengths of stay in treatment, as the children’s presence is a motivating influence on women’s recovery.”

What challenges are you currently facing in your community?

“I’ve been in this field for more than 20 years, and during that time, I’ve seen a growing need for substance use disorder treatment. With the opioid epidemic and rise of fentanyl, we’re seeing a need for prevention and early intervention, as well as more treatment services and aftercare. Personally, I’ve always felt that we need to have a two-generation approach and support the whole family. When we help a woman to become a better caregiver and break the cycle of intergenerational trauma, that has a huge impact not only on her family but the whole community. We also need to reduce stigma when it comes to substance use disorders to lower the rate of overdoses. The Haven treats all clients and potential clients with respect, and I believe that plays a huge role in making people feel welcome and like they deserve to get better and live happy and healthy lives.”

What would people be surprised to learn about your organization? 

“The Haven has a Native Ways program for Indigenous women. It was developed by, and is staffed with, professionals with backgrounds in the local Indigenous cultures and includes the teachings of the White Bison Wellbriety Movement. The Haven brings in highly respected experts from the Indigenous community to engage women in drumming circles, smudging, Native crafts, blessings, counseling and healing and traditional ceremonies. The women also live in program-specific housing on The Haven’s campus. The program was created in 2005 to create a space in which Native clients could feel whole and respected. We have received a lot of positive feedback about the program throughout the years and are continuously looking to expand and enhance it.”

How are you getting your community involved in the work you’re doing?

“The Haven is deeply committed to addressing our community’s needs through leveraging partners across sectors. We moved to our current residential facility in 1977 and have continued to grow and expand our services ever since. We have established strong roots in the community and have a good relationship with our neighbors. I’d say our community as a whole is seeing the same challenges we do. They want to reduce homelessness and support people who have a substance use disorder. By helping women and their families, we can build stronger family cohesion and improve the overall health of Pima County. These goals have wide community support.”

Do you have a success story you’d like to share?

“It is always wonderful to hear from our former clients who have graduated from our programs and are doing well. Recently, one of our former alumnae reached out to us via Facebook and wanted to share her story. Johnna went through our residential program and intensive outpatient program and has now been sober for seven years. She has two small children and is living in the Phoenix area with her family. Johnna says she loves the fact that pregnant women and mothers with children can come to The Haven and are provided extra support. She says the place felt like a small community where staff really care about you and want you to succeed. Getting feedback like that makes me so happy because it shows our family-centered approach is truly meaningful to our clients.”