There’s hope in the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge program.

At least that is the message from one of its participants, Andrew Kuta, who spoke at an event last week in Alexandria.

“I’ve seen people overdose and die in this town,” said Kuta, who was born and raised in Alexandria and is currently in the program. “Peoples’ lives have been ruined and I don’t want to see that anymore. I’m excited about this opportunity.”

The opportunity Kuta was referring to is the opening of an Adult and Teen Challenge center in Alexandria.

At the event Friday at the Lake Geneva Christian Center, information was shared by Sam Anderson, the Adult and Teen Challenge director at the Brainerd location, that a purchase agreement has been signed on a piece of property at 525 Willow Drive. The site, which is on Lake Winona, was the home of Dr. William Heegaard and his wife, Josie, until 2016, when they died four months apart.

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Anderson said the couple’s children had been searching for a meaningful use of the land and that they felt the Adult and Teen Challenge program would honor their parent’s lifelong commitment to healing. He said that although the purchase agreement has been signed, it is contingent on a few variables, including getting a letter of support from the Douglas County commissioners.

Letter to County Commissioners by inforumdocs on Scribd

Anderson, along with Laurie Bonds, Douglas County Human Services director, presented information to the commissioners at their board meeting Tuesday, April 20. Bonds said she and Anderson have spoken numerous times and after he provided reasonable answers to all her questions, she feels comfortable about having a program in Alexandria.

Included in the board’s packet of information were several letters in support of the Adult and Teen Challenge program, including letters from the Brainerd police chief, Crow Wing County attorney and the chief deputy from Crow Wing County. Besides Brainerd, there are locations in Minneapolis, Rochester, Duluth and a treatment center for teen boys in Buffalo.

Letter from Crow Wing County Attorney by inforumdocs on Scribd

Bonds also noted that she had spoken with Alexandria Police Chief Scott Kent who she said does not have any concerns about a location opening in Alexandria.

Anderson explained to the commissioners that the program offers a broad range of services. The Adult and Teen Challenge website stated that it offers treatment and recovery programs including outpatient, both telehealth and in-person; licensed residential programs (seven to 90 days); long-term recovery (12 months) and more. The programs are for those seeking treatment for the first time to those who have been struggling with addiction for years.

When asked who would be expected to pay for those using the program, Anderson said that those entering in the program are expected to pay for it. However, he said that if they do not have insurance or need financial assistance, they could go to the county and apply. He also noted, however, that the program itself has financial assistance available through fundraising and it also receives money from the state.

Bonds said that if the county was working with a client who was chemically dependent and needed to be entered into a program, the county could refer them to the Adult and Teen Challenge program. The two entities would be working collaboratively if the center is opened in this area.

No timeline in place yet

During the Friday open house, Anderson said the fundraising banquet has been held in Alexandria for numerous years. And that since the fall of 2016, they have been researching the idea of opening a center in Alexandria.

“Alexandria rose to the top of our list when looking at potential sites,” said Anderson, noting that when searching for land, nothing was right at first. He was given information about the Heegaard property from Tim Ferguson, he said, noting that he then called Jeff Heegaard and talks to purchase the property began.

The Heegaard property sits on a wooded lot on Willow Drive near Shady Lane across from the Wiltoka Apartments. The photo is looking north toward the Douglas County Fairgrounds. (Contributed photo)
The Heegaard property sits on a wooded lot on Willow Drive near Shady Lane across from the Wiltoka Apartments. The photo is looking north toward the Douglas County Fairgrounds. (Contributed photo)

“It is such a beautiful fit and a beautiful way to honor their parents and their legacy,” said Anderson.

A timeline has not yet been put in place as to when the center would open. Anderson said the next steps are to get the letters of support, which will be sent to the state; then to acquire all the necessary permits, along with funding. He said a capital campaign would begin within the next couple of months.

Kuta is excited about the possibility of a center being located in Alexandria as he knows how great the program is.

“It helps you find a new identity,” he said. “You get all the support and love from the staff and you make a new family. There is hope in the challenge.”