Tim Fulton  00:08

Welcome to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. This week, personal struggles can open our eyes to the needs of others. That’s true for Tammy Adler Fuller, the co founder of Open Door women’s recovery Alliance. They are a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting women transitioning out of incarceration or drug treatment. Tammy and I discussed her personal journey navigating her daughter’s battle with addiction, how it inspired her to help others the organization’s volunteer based support system, and where they are in their journey to grow capacity and combat stigma for those affected by the opioid epidemic. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cass.com. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here with Tammy Adler, Fuller, the founder, co founder and executive director of Open Door women’s recovery Alliance,

Tammy Adler Foeller  01:19

are you I’m good, how are you?

Tim Fulton  01:21

I’m great. I’m great. Thanks for sitting down today. First of all, could you tell us about open door and what you guys do? It’s

Tammy Adler Foeller  01:27

one of my favorite topics. Open Door women’s recovery Alliance bridges the gap for women who are in recovery from substance use disorder. Either leaving incarceration or and or leaving treatment. Okay, partner with to be friend them and journey with them as they transition to a life outside of addiction. Got

Tim Fulton  01:51

it. And what you do is sort of surround them with folks who are volunteers, right to basically help guide them on this new path that they’re on?

Tammy Adler Foeller  02:02

That’s correct. We do have we do have a training. It’s about 15 hours. Okay. And community volunteers. We’ve been so blessed, we probably have close to 100 volunteers from the community. We always need more. Since it takes five or six volunteers to journey with one woman. Okay, who’s in recovery. So? Yeah, yes, that’s that’s the

Tim Fulton  02:27

gist of it. Yeah. So tell me about how you got into this space. I know you and your co founders had some experience with your families. We did.

Tammy Adler Foeller  02:36

So my daughter struggle with substance use disorder for a lot longer than I knew. Okay. She started using probably when she was 12 or 13. Okay. And by the time she was 17, it had spiraled into a full blown addiction. She ran away from home, she wasn’t going to school, she was really in the depths of her addiction. At the same time, a woman that I met and allanon Leslie, who was another founder, her daughter was in the same situation. So we were two moms kind of sharing each other’s pain and trying to figure out how to live while our daughters are dying from this disease. And then our third partner is Rachel mu ha Hill, is probably gonna cry is one of the most incredible humans on the planet. 25 years ago, on May 30, Rachel lost her son to a kidnapping and murder. Okay, and Steven Bell, Ohio. And Brian was her son’s name and Brian wanted to be a pediatrician. He loved children. And so born from that Rachel started a program. She has the Brian mewho foundation and also the run the race club and she serves children on the on the hilltop, Clay who are like the guys that murdered her son. Okay, so Rachel is who I called when Leslie and I decided that we wanted to do something to help our community because we really didn’t know what we were doing. Okay. And so we called Rachel and we had breakfast with her. And she said, I want to help you. I want to join you. I want to be part of of this mission mission. And we knew when Rachel said she wanted to be a part of it that it was a big deal, because Rachel already she didn’t really have time, but she wanted to make time.

Tim Fulton  04:52

Yeah. And so how long has the organization been around at this point?

Tammy Adler Foeller  04:55

We’re still very young. We got our 501 C three and a Um, December of 2019. Okay. And eight weeks later the world shut down. Yeah, because it was COVID. And so, you know that first year was a little rocky didn’t know if it was, if we were meant to do it if we were meant to not do it. Being a woman of faith, I just had to keep asking, Is this what you want us to do? Every time I asked the question, I would get a phone call an email, a text, indicating that our community really does need the support,

Tim Fulton  05:36

literally an affirmation, literally an affirmation. So talk me through, we’ve talked through sort of the nuts and bolts of like, what happens with each person, surrounding them with a with this new community basically, talk to me about the funding model and sort of how you fit into the addiction treatment ecosystem basically, like, first of all, how do women find you?

Tammy Adler Foeller  06:02

Great question. The question, the answer is we have referral partners. Okay. Our referral partners are organizations such as heart, which is helping achieve recovery together. That is Judge Jody Thomas, another unbelievably special person. She runs the special docket Municipal Court. And so women, is this the catch court? Yes. Got it. Okay. Yes. So there’s heart and there’s catch and catch is more for women who’ve been trafficked? Okay. And heart is more for women who are struggling. And sometimes there’s overlap. Of course, yeah. If women have the option, they can go to jail. Or they can do a two year program through heart with Judge Jody. Okay. And if they go through the two year program, they can they can be referred to us. Okay. Mary Haven is a referral partner based campus referral partner freedom recovery is a referral partner, federal probation of the Southern District of Ohio, mommies matter. For

Tim Fulton  07:12

those that are not watching this on video, you are just naming these off the top of your head, which is admirable to talk to me sort of So is there some certification in what you’re doing? If that makes sense? Like you guys are not proper probation officers?

Tammy Adler Foeller  07:29

We are not right? We are not?

Tim Fulton  07:31

What are you signing anything? That’s basically, hey, we can certify that this person successfully completed this program? They did these check ins with these women, here are testimonials from them? And is that sort of am I envisioning the right system? You

Tammy Adler Foeller  07:47

are? Okay. That’s exactly right. The reason that we don’t just take women that we might meet on the street, okay, in a church, or someone calls and says, Hey, my best friend needs help is because we as lay people need accountability with the courts, okay, the treatment centers and with those organizations, so we work together with them. And if if a woman doesn’t show up for her weekly meeting, I mean, we’re calling and saying, Hey,

Tim Fulton  08:19

you’re accountable for this thing that you signed up for? And

Tammy Adler Foeller  08:23

even getting in touch with the judge or getting in touch with the social worker or getting in touch with somebody who knows this person? And you know, have they been drug tested lately? And are they showing up for you? And is there something going on that we don’t know about? How can we be of help? So there’s definitely, that’s why it’s so great to have so many referral partners, as working together is really key.

Tim Fulton  08:50

And so to be clear, you’re not the organization that’s administering drug tests, you’re not asking for anything like that. You are literally trying to be a support network for these people. Yes, there’s a certain amount of accountability to it. But the purpose is to almost like a Big Brothers Big Sisters comes to mind, like sort of this is an at risk person, and you are providing a certain amount of structure and guidance and support to their lives.

Tammy Adler Foeller  09:19

Right. And you can look at it this way, every person that that every volunteer, okay, has a lot of social and relational capital, okay? All of us have 20 people that could help us in some way. So when I sit down at a table with a woman who has no resources, suddenly she has my 20 and your 20 and that person’s 20 And all of a sudden, all of this social and relational capital is just given to her through us, you know, it’s not like she’s making a cold call,

Tim Fulton  09:54

but she’s, I mean, and she has to earn it to an extent, right, like, that’s not just gonna happen as soon as She gets referred to you guys. There’s some onboarding,

Tammy Adler Foeller  10:02

there is some onboarding, the onboarding is actually really fun though. Okay, it’s, we do. Volunteers prepare a meal. Okay, her. And sometimes we actually have it at Rachel’s house, she has a farm and Galloway, sometimes we have it in the park, sometimes we have it, I mean, all over the place. Yeah. And this is to make the woman feel special and important and cared about. And then we have a week where we share, like, why are we doing this? Why am I giving up an hour a week for a stranger? And then the following week, she gets to dream, you know, where do you see yourself in three months, six months a year. And we start putting all those things on? Boards, like a vision board? Yeah, like a vision board. And so while we’re doing that we’re building this relationship with her. We’re learning about her. She’s learning about us. It’s very two way. It’s not like she’s not our project. And, and so the onboard Yes, the first day that we meet her. And we have we’ve had that happen? Well, I thought you guys were gonna give me diapers for my baby,

Tim Fulton  11:16

right? That’s not really what we’re here for. Like, I imagine you have a Rolodex, if you will of like, additional resources that are available. That’s right. But I also believe that probably the courts are your other referral partners, you are not the only referral that they are making to them that there are other resources that they are pointing out to them. But again, as you go through this process, you’re four years into it, you’re pretty aware of again, the the sort of landscape that’s available to these folks in central Ohio.

Tammy Adler Foeller  11:47

Yes. And it’s not a pretty landscape.

Tim Fulton  11:51

Okay. And I do want to get back to that. And what’s what’s unique to Columbus specifically, talk to me about your capacity in terms of like, how many women you can take on at a time? And do you? Do you do this on a rolling basis? Is there basically you’re doing it as a fiscal year? Like, how does how does that all line up? Well,

Tammy Adler Foeller  12:12

so much of it depends on on our recruitment of volunteers. Okay. Like I said, we have close to 100 volunteers right now. And it isn’t enough to serve the need. So it’s all we try. We’ve told our referral partners, we can take this many referrals at a time, and we want to grow that we want that to be bigger. So our capacity is really limited by that.

Tim Fulton  12:41

Can you give me a number for like where you’re at right now just to get an understanding. So right now

Tammy Adler Foeller  12:47

we have eight groups, eight teams. Okay. So that’s about 40 volunteers that are actively working with somebody. And then if you take that number, and you say, every woman has five people in their family? Well, and

Tim Fulton  13:06

please excuse me, I know that I don’t need to make an argument about what impact eight people is right? I would hope that people would realize that that not only do those, there’s 40, people that are actively working right now have their personal network, this person has a network too, even though they don’t have the necessary resources that they may need. This is having both familial and societal impact. So I forgive me, if at all, I was quite like, inferring that that was not at all inferring that that’s a small number. So translating that back, does that mean at any given time, you sort of know we can service this number at any given time, given the number of active folks?

Tammy Adler Foeller  13:55

Well, right now I have a table ready to go. And I don’t have a friend got it. But we call our participants, the women who come to us, and I’m starting to train another table. Great Morrow, tomorrow. So technically, in about six weeks, you may be at 10. We may be at 10. And that’s our goal. So now we have one of our volunteers reaching out to our referral partners and saying, Hey, we have a group ready to go. Is there anybody in your docket? Right, right, exactly. That would benefit from well, I

Tim Fulton  14:29

imagine not everyone would benefit, right? That there are some forgive me, but there are some folks who like aren’t necessarily interested in going through additional recovery and don’t aren’t at a place where they want to make a change. And the folks who you serve are the people who you may have the best impact towards yes,

Tammy Adler Foeller  14:53

they actually go through an assessment, okay to make sure that they are ready for change that it’s isn’t somebody else’s fault still. Yeah. And that they are taking responsibility for where they are, and then we can help them. Yeah, that’s the good news. Right? If it’s my problem, I can go for it. Right. Right. So that’s a beautiful thing. Talk

Tim Fulton  15:16

to me about your funding, then, like you both have volunteers, but you also need a little bit of capital in order to like, get things going. You have a fundraiser coming up, which we’ll talk about. But are you a grant seeking organization? I know that you obviously accept donations. But where does your funding come from? Or has it? Well,

Tammy Adler Foeller  15:36

I have to tell you a secret first, or a confession. Okay. When open door first was getting off its feet. I said, we didn’t need any money. Okay. And this lady, because I thought, we’re gonna be volunteer, Ron. And what do we need money for? Right? Well, here we are four years in, and we need to hire people. Right? Because we are not sustainable as a volunteer organization. Yeah, we just aren’t. Volunteers are fabulous. We’ve been super blessed. But they have families jobs, and we aren’t their job. Yeah. So we have had some grants, which have been wonderful. We have had some donations, which had been wonderful. And we are now seeking, we really want to get to the point where we are having recurring monthly donations. I hear that that’s the secret. Yeah. And so we’re working toward that. Yeah.

Tim Fulton  16:36

So that’s where you are. You are building up your development? Sort of capacity right now? Yes. Yeah. You are in a state of basically growing your development capacity. He’d like that sort of the state now that we’re four years in, that’s sort of the stage that you’re at. You do have again, that fundraiser coming up in September, can you this is a good time to tell us more about that.

Tammy Adler Foeller  16:58

I would love to so we did not want to have a gala or some extravagant event for our very first event. So we decided to make it more educational, but hopefully fun. We I reached out to Hilary Phelps on LinkedIn. And she told her a little bit about open door and what we were doing in Columbus, we met on a zoom call. And she she’s just fabulous. How can I help you? What can I do?

Tim Fulton  17:28

To be clear, this is Michael Phelps, his sister, it is She is has a background, she has experienced some addiction issues in the past. She

Tammy Adler Foeller  17:37

has she has and she’s going to share her story which will be so impactful. I think it’s really important when someone who, you know is a little well known or a little known. She’s a name with her name. Yeah. And I think people will appreciate her honesty and her frankness about how her disease started. And where it took her, and then how she climbed out. And now she’s a public speaker. She’s peer support. She is just a huge advocate for women, which is fabulous for us.

Tim Fulton  18:11

Yeah, yeah. Talk me through a little bit of sort of Columbus in this space, like what is I imagine you’ve done a little bit of benchmarking of other metropolitan areas where you’ve looked at sort of like, what problems are unique to us, like, what might folks not know about the recovery space here? The

Tammy Adler Foeller  18:33

biggest thing is people don’t know that Franklin County has the largest overdose rate of all 88 counties, okay. Which is not what we want, right? We want to we want a much better statistic. Treatment is super expensive. Okay. I think it’s expensive, though. across across the board, right. And across the board, again, as insurance caps how long a person can be in treatment? All those things? I don’t I think that anywhere we took our model, any state, any city, any suburb anywhere, it would be useful. I think that I don’t know that Columbus is especially unique. I think I think we’re just facing the same challenges that other other cities are facing. I just know that we’re so you know that we have the highest death rate? Yeah. And I don’t like it. Absolutely. I’m like, There’s something to be done

Tim Fulton  19:37

about it. Right. Right. I end every interview with the same two questions. One of them is, what do you think Columbus is doing? Well, and what do you think Columbus is doing? Not so well. This could be in the context of your work today. It doesn’t have to be in the context of your work.

Tammy Adler Foeller  19:54

So I think one of the things that sets Ohio apart or is that the governor signed his the first bill, I have to make sure it’s a bill. But the first law that he signed as the governor was to create recovery Ohio, and that was to bring the dollars to come to Ohio to help those suffering from substance use disorder. And I hope that we’re a part of some of that, you know, that we’re recipients of some of that. Yeah. I don’t know if we will be. But I’m really glad that money is being poured into our state because we we need it. Yeah. I think I think that we still need to work on the stigma, I think that we are failing miserably. I think that we are not educating the public enough. We are not sharing, like real stories so that people can see that, you know, I’m a mom from the suburbs, and my daughter is a recovering heroin addict. You know, like you don’t we think of heroin addicts as being under the bridge. We’re in a brown paper bag with their alcohol. Yeah. And that is not who they are anymore. I know people who’ve lost children in the suburbs. So I really think I don’t know how to do it. But I really think that we could do a much better job so that the people who are suffering would not be ignored. Absolutely. I don’t want them to be ignored. So,

Tim Fulton  21:32

David, thanks for your time.

Tammy Adler Foeller  21:34

Sure. It was just so much fun. Thanks, Tim.

Tim Fulton  21:47

Thank you for listening to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com. Please rate subscribe, share this episode of The confluence cast with your friends, family, contacts, enemies, your favorite volunteer. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info at the confluence cast.com Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson. Our producer is Philip Cogley. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.