While services have changed to reflect community needs, XChange Recovery’s mission to help people has stayed the same since it opened 20 years ago.
XChange Recovery in Battle Ground has provided services to help combat drug addiction, homelessness and mental health problems in the form of outpatient addiction treatment and recovery as well as transitional housing in Southwest Washington since 2003. XChange Recovery staff celebrated the 20th anniversary of the non-profit program on Oct. 12 with a fundraiser at Summit Grove Lodge.
“When you see the fruit of what God has done in people’s lives, it makes it so worth it, you know,” XChange Program Director Vicky Smith said of the last 20 years. “When people are ready for change, and they really want something different, that’s really when we can help, and we’re just there to help, support them, encourage them and guide them. It’s just been really rewarding for us to be able to see people dramatically transformed before our very eyes.”
XChange Recovery Executive Director Bill Smith, Vicky Smith’s husband, said when XChange Recovery first opened, Clark County’s biggest problem twas people stealing or buying mass quantities of Sudafed to make methamphetamine in labs.
“Law enforcement and everybody got together and passed some laws to get rid of that, so it sort of curbed that,” Bill Smith said of the meth crisis. “And then there’s just been so many changes over the years and different laws that have come into effect. Now there’s a lot more, especially in Clark County, there’s a lot more people that are partnered together to really combat this. … It’s been really amazing to see the community rally, and I think awareness is one of the keys [because] everybody probably has somebody that they know that suffers with addiction in some form or another, and it’s been good to see that come to the forefront where people can really understand it a little bit more.”
Clark County hasn’t shed its drug problems, however.
“The one thing that we have seen for sure in the last couple of years is the increase in overdoses because of fentanyl,” Vicky Smith said. “It’s literally like a switch was flipped, and fentanyl is here. It’s insidious. It’s in everything, and it’s killing people.”
XChange Recovery certified peer counselor and outreach coordinator Jacqueline Alley sees firsthand the current fentanyl crisis taking its toll when she is in the field. The prominent drug use is contributing to spiking mental health concerns. As well, homelessness and accompanying camp cleanups are becoming more frequent, which has caused some issues, she said.
“When the city does their cleanup … a lot of times they take the tents that these people are currently staying in,” Alley said. “We need more shelter space. We definitely need more shelter space, and I actually can’t stress that enough. We have moms and kids out there right now, and there’s no family space available. It’s wintertime, and we have elderly people with disabilities living out there, people with mental health conditions living out there.”
Oftentimes after cleanups, the homeless individuals have their tents taken away, which Alley believes is inhumane, and she hopes the community will see that too and help through donations, especially now that cooler weather is arriving.
“So the one thing that I would think that the community should do is to remember that these are people’s sons and daughters and mothers and fathers and, like, really put a face to the homelessness instead of just stereotyping the whole community as one,” Alley said. “Like these are still individuals that deserve the same common decency as everybody else.”
Alley said camping supplies, including tents, blankets, sleeping bags and more are valuable donations this time of year, especially as shelter space is limited.
The morning of Thursday, Oct. 19, Alley said she had requested to put two elderly gentlemen with “very, very, very concerning health conditions” on a shelter waitlist, adding it can take anywhere from one day to months to get a bed.
Bill Smith said, unfortunately, state law has made it more difficult for XChange to help people.
“One of the things I think that’s really hurt us is the decriminalization of drug possession. Because now, when you go to the jail to help people with outreach, you don’t really have the audience that we used to have,” Smith said, adding jail outreach provided a good opportunity to help people. “And now they’re not arresting people for this so there’s no consequence … So, we never thought we’d see that. … We were able to go into the jails and the prisons and talk with people and see if they wanted a better way of life, and now you don’t really have that audience from what we’re seeing.”
A service that XChange has added since opening is housing for people they help. XChange Recovery leases housing around Clark County, including a unit in Battle Ground that serves 11 residents. The housing program fees are $450 a month with a one time move-in fee of $175. Vicky Smith said the community can help people pay those fees by sponsoring them.
XChange has also added a behavioral health department that provides outpatient care for people with substance abuse disorders, including drugs and alcohol, and mental health treatment.
“We have counselors doing groups and one-on-ones with individuals,” Vicky Smith said.
To assist their counseling services, XChange relies on its peer counseling and outreach team. Certified peer counselor Kelly Phillips said she came in as a resident to change her life, and now she is helping others the same way she was helped.
“I came in straight out of prison, and I came here and I went to a program and I decided this was an amazing outlet to go back around and help people,” she said. “That’s really how we stay clean and sober by helping other people out of the same mess that we were in.”
XChange operates a total of nine houses in Clark County serving a total of 70 people in need. Each week staff hand out 250 lunches and offer a Saturday night service with over 250 participating.
Recently, XChange merged its recovery church service with Living Hope Church, near the area of Andresen Road and Fourth Plain Boulevard in Vancouver, where Vicky Smith said has a large community of people in need.
As XChange Recovery is a 501(c)3 Humanitarian Non-Profit, the program is reliant on donations from the community. To learn more about XChange, visit the website at driveoutaddiction.com or call 360-687-8500. The XChange Recovery campus is located at 21810 NE 37th Ave. near Ridgefield. Go to driveoutaddiction.com/give to learn ways to donate to XChange.