Ever since Vince Collins took over Recovery Cafe Clark County in July, he’s been searching for ways to bring normalcy to the cafe’s members.
“Let’s not look for excuses not to see people. Let’s look for ways to support them,” Collins said.
Recovery Cafe Clark County, which opened in August 2018, is part of a network of more than 20 cafes across the country that help those in recovery from substance use, alcohol use and trauma.
Collins said the COVID-19 pandemic has forced alterations at the cafe, but he thinks the gathering spot on Fourth Plain Boulevard in Vancouver has adapted well considering the circumstances.
For now, the cafe has replaced its in-person dinning with a grab-and-go lunch bag system. Some Recovery Circles take place virtually, although there are small groups meeting in person, with precautions taken.
“Our big thing is to survive COVID and get the building back opened so we can help the people we’re serving,” Collins said.
Collins has roots with Clark County’s recovery community that stretch back to 2004, he said. He used to work out of Olympia as a manager for Washington’s Access to Recovery project.
That meant Collins helped provide funding to county-level recovery programs. He also helped those programs shape and set expectations.
“My focus is always to be an advocate for providing direct services to people who need it,” Collins said.
Seven months after Clark County’s first official coronavirus cases were discovered, those in recovery have been some of the hardest hit by COVID-19’s collateral damage, Collins said.
As people avoid contact with each other and lead more isolated lives, those in recovery have lost important outlets, Collins said.
More than 40 states have tallied increases in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic began, according to the American Medical Association.
“It’s a trying time. This puts stress on people, and they are anxious to get back to normal,” Collins said.
While Collins’ focus is on navigating the pandemic right now, he wants to continue to increase membership at the cafe.
The only requirement to be a member is that you must be drug and alcohol free for 24 hours, make contributions to the cafe such as chores and also attend a recovery circle.
Collins also wants to use the cafe’s space to host other community organizations. He says he views the cafe as a community resource.
For now, the Recovery Cafe Clark County will operate with more precautions in place. But Collins said the cafe is preparing for a time when COVID-19 activity in Clark County is low enough to bring back more services.
Collins wants to help pair members with jobs, feed them meals in person and offer more recovery circles in person, too.
He’s remodeling the cafe for safety, and gathering protective equipment.
“We would like to be one of the core partners in the community that help people navigate the multiyear path to recovery,” Collins said. “There’s a need for that here.”