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Oct. 1, 2022

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Lifeline Connections celebrates 60th anniversary

Vancouver-based agency provides help to those facing drug, alcohol, mental health issues

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
6 Photos
Former Lifeline Connections President and CEO Jared Sanford, from left, former President and CEO Joe Foster, Interim President and CEO Brandy Branch and incoming President and CEO Andrea Brooks pose for a photo Wednesday during a 60th anniversary celebration event for the organization at the Clark County Center for Community Health Building. Sister events were held at three other Lifeline Connections locations across Washington.
Former Lifeline Connections President and CEO Jared Sanford, from left, former President and CEO Joe Foster, Interim President and CEO Brandy Branch and incoming President and CEO Andrea Brooks pose for a photo Wednesday during a 60th anniversary celebration event for the organization at the Clark County Center for Community Health Building. Sister events were held at three other Lifeline Connections locations across Washington. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When Billy Peck first visited Lifeline Connections in Vancouver, his addiction to drugs and alcohol consumed him.

That was 25 years ago. Now, Peck regards Lifeline Connections as the place that spawned his recovery and set him on the path to becoming an outreach case manager with Sea Mar-Community Services Northwest.

“I got a whole group of friends that have benefited from (Lifeline Connections), and for that I’ll forever be grateful,” he said. “My mission today is to save the world, and I’m not going to stop until every drug addict and alcoholic in our community has the chance to have a good life like I do today.”

Peck was speaking at Lifeline Connections’ 60th anniversary celebration Wednesday afternoon, which was held at the organization’s headquarters at the VA Portland Health Care System Vancouver Campus.

Sister events were held at three other Lifeline Connections locations across Washington.

Lifeline Connections is a community-based behavioral health organization that specializes in providing care for people struggling with addiction and mental health issues. It was founded in Vancouver in 1962 and has since expanded to 11 locations across the Pacific Northwest. Today, the organization serves more than 8,000 patients a year.

“Lifeline has grown from a very humble start to a full-service community behavioral health organization,” Interim President and CEO Brandy Branch said. “Today, we’re proud of our broad scope of services, our commitment to diverse populations, our stable leadership team and our financial position. The journey has not always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.”

Other speakers at the event included former Clark County Drug and Alcohol Program Manager Cleve Thompson, former Lifeline Connections President and CEO Jared Sanford, Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Whatcom County Health Department Director Erika Lautenbach and incoming Lifeline Connections President Andrea Brooks.

Thompson spoke about the history of the organization and how it grew from a small program known as the Clark County Council on Alcohol and Drugs to the large organization that it is today.

“I love these people because they know how to work with patients and get them through difficult times,” Thompson said. “They did it better than the mental health system. They did it better than anybody in the court system. They did it better than anybody in the jail. Without them, we would have many more problems than we have. They’ve been the avenue for people to eventually get into recovery.

“I’ll probably be in heaven, but I’m waiting for 2062 when Lifeline Connections has served this community for 100 years,” he concluded.

Sanford spoke about the impact recovery has on individuals and communities.

“When just one person stops abusing drugs and alcohol or finds stability with their mental health condition, the impacts are generational,” he said. “It is truly staggering when you think of the impact this organization has had on individuals, families and communities since 1962.”

McEnerny-Ogle spoke about Lifeline Connections’ impact locally and about the city’s ongoing financial support for the organization through Community Development Block Grants and other affordable housing funds.

“We know that there’s a future here that is absolutely necessary,” she said. “(The city of Vancouver is) here to be one of your partners.”

Moving forward, the organization is working to become a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, a designation provided by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

“The designation will allow us to continue integrating our programs, improving access to services and expanding our integrated care model,” Branch said. “We will strengthen our community partnerships, respond to the growing behavioral health needs in our community and engage proactive strategies to build a healthy community. The future is bright for Lifeline Connections and our community.”

After speakers concluded, ice cream sandwiches were passed out to attendees.

“This is where my heart is,” said Peck, the former Lifeline Connections patient. “The most important people in our community today are those drug addicts and alcoholics who have not made a choice yet. It’s up to us to get out there in the camps, get out there in the field, and show them that recovery works.”

To learn more about Lifeline Connections, visit lifelineconnections.org.

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