Sitting on a beige couch in a room of a former fraternity house Sunday, John Amolsch says if he still associated with his drug-abusing friends, he wouldn’t change; he couldn’t recover.
But in this house, which he considers his new home, there is a sense of community and support.
The once-Sigma Pi fraternity room where 19-year-old CSU student Sam Spady died from alcohol poisoning five years ago to the day looks much different than it used to.
Now, the room offers a place for prayer and discussion to the men living in newly opened, sober living house called the Helping All Recover Together Center.
As she stood in the “Office” doorway, HART Center Director of Business and Community Development Carol Hollen said, “Samantha Spady died here; this is where she passed away.”
Managing a facility that offers a drug and alcohol-free home to up to 50 recovering addicts, students in particular, Hollen said, “We want to keep an awareness that (drug and alcohol abuse) is a problem at CSU,” motioning to the room.
“It’s about hugs, not drugs,” says 28-year-old recovering methamphetamine addict Amolsch of his three weeks at the HART Center.
Though he came from a “good background,” Amolsch says he “chose the wrong path,” subsequently battling with drugs the past 14 years.
After doing meth from 1993 to 1995 and later going to prison, Amolsch was clean from 2000 to 2003 and applied for college. He fell back onto the drug bandwagon, however, and found himself homeless, moving from shelter to shelter in Greeley, Fort Collins and Denver for four years.
When he was about to move back to the mission in Denver, Amolsh’s Probation Officer Leslie Quitmeyer encouraged him to move to Fort Collins and into the HART Center.
Now wanting to apply to CSU and having submitted an application to work in a janitorial position at the university, Amolsh says Fort Collins’ residents have been very accepting of he and his fellow residents.
A house’s history
Four days after Spady’s death in 2004, the university announced the termination of Sigma Pi as an organization, a decision supported by CSU’s student Interfraternity Council and the national Sigma Pi branch that revoked the association’s charter.
Decision to close the charter came after a university investigation found the fraternity guilty of alcohol-related violations, among other infractions, in 2003. Reported incidents included hosting unauthorized parties, serving alcohol at the fraternity house and serving alcohol to minors, according to a September 2004 university press release.
After CSU’s charter was nullified, the house went unattended and fell into disrepair. Then, in August 2005, Fort Collins’ Assemblies of God Timberline Church renovated the house and opened The Lighthouse, a ministry-based organization that worked to prevent alcohol abuse.
Four years later, the 11,000-square-foot, three-story brick home, neighboring the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house west of campus on Wagner Drive, opened its doors and a clean recovery environment to recovering addicts on Aug. 1.
The HART Center is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, commonly known as SAMHSA, and several dozen state and private agencies and local businesses.
Currently, several states and cities, including Ohio, Massachusetts and Colorado Springs, are looking to see if the HART Center’s 90-day substance recovery program model is duplicable at the national level.
Though confident in the program, Hollen said administrators are continuing to establish methods to smoothen a students’ transition from a detox program to a sober living environment and into a traditional environment.
“We want to prove this system in Fort Collins” before promoting the method at a higher level, Hollen said.
Life at the HART Center
The recovery program is aimed at the whole person, Hollen said, mind, body and spirit.
In addition to having the option to attend Alcohol and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, residents are treated to gender and sexual orientation-specific groups, relationship workshops, health education classes and life skill training, including money management and career development.
In the future, CSU is going to donate a greenhouse to the HART Center that residents can eventually grow their own food as part of a commitment to healthy eating.
This concept is necessary to replenish an addict’s body with the multiple vitamins and minerals they are deficient in, a HART Center volunteer and CSU health and exercise management graduate Holly Klamer said.
“They learn how to prevent cravings with the right foods,” she said.
When asked what students can do to help their friends who have drinking or drug problems, Amolsh simply says, “When you want to quit, there will be help.”
But you have to want help, both Amolsh and Hollen agreed.
News Managing Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at email@example.com.