DYNAMIC DUO: Client Service Specialist Bobbie Jo Ward, left and Front Office Supervisor Heather Smith.

The caller on the other end of the line was desperate. He was asking for a ride to the courthouse so he could go back to jail.

Front Office Supervisor Heather Smith recognized him as an Outpatient Therapy patient who had suddenly stopped attending his sessions. Staff had been unable to reach him.

“Then I found out why,” Heather said.

The man had been living with his parents, but they kicked him out of the house, and he was living under a bridge on the South Side of Lansing. He was so miserable there that he had contacted his probation officer asking that his probation be revoked. He was exhausted from sheltering under a bridge in an overgrown, swampy area, fighting off raccoons and scrounging for food. Anything seemed better, even returning to life behind bars.

But Heather had a better idea. She asked if he would be willing to enter our residential treatment program for men, Holden House. He agreed to check with his probation officer and call us back.

NO PLACE TO LIVE: The client had sought refuge under this bridge on the South Side of Lansing.

From under a bridge to a second chance

This was a familiar situation for Heather and Client Services Specialist Bobbie Jo Ward, who go the distance to build trust with patients and connect them with help when they are ready for it.

Some of these are walk-ins. But about a third of our patients come to us from the court system. Mid-Michigan is blessed with progressive and innovative sobriety court programs — and MMRS has a long and productive partnership with them.

When the patient called back, we had already emailed  his probation officer, who signed off on the plan — as long as the man reported to probation in Mason by 2 p.m. that day.

Heather and Bobbie Jo explained the situation to Larry Brannam, Holden House program supervisor, and asked if he had room for a new patient.

“Go get him,” he said.

Bobbie Jo and Heather hopped in the car to go meet him at a park near the bridge. He was sober, but all he had was a trash bag holding a few belongings, a bottle of pop and an umbrella.

And as they waited outside the courthouse, the client called from inside and said he would have to go to jail overnight — but would they promise to pick him up the next day?

“Of course, we said ‘yes,’” Bobbie Jo said.

Larry picked him up the next day and brought him to Holden House. He has since graduated to our Safe Harbor program, where he continues working on his recovery in a safe community — and he recently started working in a new job.

“The lesson I take from this is that people trust us,” Heather said. “They feel safe with us because we keep our promises to them.”