By Joyanna Love
“We believe there is hope and help for every person. We don’t judge them by their past. We judge them by the possibility of a better future,” said Anchor Point Foundation executive director Russell Coffey.
This is the mission of Cleveland-based nonprofit Anchor Point Foundation.
“We don’t believe that one is always an addict. We believe that you can be set free from the bondage of addiction,” Coffey said.
A pile of letters sits on his desk. Many were written by an inmate in the Bradley County Jail.
Because of jail policy limiting incoming mail to simply a postcard, Coffey will not answer them by mail. Instead he and volunteers with Anchor Point Foundation will visit them.
“We actually do a 12-step program inside the prison here on a weekly basis; we go in every Monday night,” Coffey said.
He said the vast majority of those in jail are there for addiction-related offenses.
“Its not just drugs, there are a lot of addictive behavior problems besides that,” Coffey said.
This 12-step program is also given, upon request, to inmates who are being sent to state or federal prisons.
Coffey said the jail also allows him to visit on a one-on-one basis with inmates who have written a letter for help and giving him permission to review their case.
“We evaluate them — what their commitment level is and what the possibilities are legally where we might place them. It’s just a process of going through the hoops to see where they are and where we are legally,” Coffey said.
Some have been moved to rehabilitation programs.
Of those who have been recommended to rehabilitation programs through Anchor Point and complete the program, more than 90 are successful in overcoming addiction.
Coffey said the organization is “Bible-based and Christ-centered.”
“We believe that without a good foundation people cannot survive at any level of life,” Coffey said. “We believe the Scriptures are very clear as to how people find a solid foundation in their life. We believe before you can change the mind, you have to see the heart changed. … We make no apologies for that.”
Anchor Point volunteers work with about 200 inmates a week. Volunteers, including pastors and counselors, are also a major part of the foundation’s support group for those battling addiction and their families.
“In the support group we have families of those who we now have in rehab somewhere. We also have new families coming that are seeking help for a loved one struggling with addictive behavior problems. We have a number of graduates from several of our programs who are doing well. We have individuals show up on a weekly basis who … themselves are struggling with addictive behavior, and they come seeking help,” Coffey said.
There are 80 to 100 people who come to the meeting each week.
It was a near-tragedy that brought Anchor Point to a start in Cleveland.
Ten years ago, a car accident that almost took Coffey and his wife’s lives while passing through Cleveland left Coffey “crippled for about just two years,” he said.
During recovering, Coffey heard of a former pastor who had become addicted to drugs “due to being overmedicated with pain medication from 14 back surgeries.”
“I decided I am going to find this guy. He had lost his church. He had lost his business. He had left his family and he was now living on the streets of Cleveland,” Coffey said.
Coffey said he was not sure where to start looking. Eventually he found him in an abandoned train car.
“And it was in that train car that God broke my heart for people like him,” Coffey said.
Coffey said he was given permission in the court system to work with the man and help him.
The man’s story was not that much different from Coffey’s own.
About 30 years ago, Coffey was diagnosed with an incurable disease and told he wouldn’t live.
“They put me on comfort care which means they started giving me morphine in large doses. I remained in intensive care for four months, and for four months I was given high dosages of morphine,” Coffey said. “The mercy of God healed me from the disease, but he did not instantaneously deliver me of the addiction. I had to go through all of the withdrawal struggles that any normal street addict would have to go through. That gave me a real compassion … for those who have become addicted by choice.”
Helping one person was the start of being contacted by others facing addiction.
“Now I have been doing this for 10 years, and it has gone from one to thousands,” Coffey said.
The impact of the organization goes beyond Bradley County to eight surrounding counties and the nation. Many of these calls are from those who work in the court system looking for rehabilitation centers or other help for inmates.
“We have over 200 right now in long-term residential areas somewhere in the area from about 12 states,” Coffey said.
Those Coffey helps place are not sent to facilities in their hometowns. Coffey requires the facility to be at least 350 miles away. However, those from other areas have come to local programs.
Coffey assists with placing those in the court system with addictions into yearlong residential programs.
“All of them are work-rehab programs so they are very cost effective. Everybody who goes there has to work their way through,” Coffey said.
The programs that Anchor Point partners with have been researched to ensure they are stable and successful. A small, up-front fee is usually required to cover the cost of the curriculum.
Coffey said once he started in this work, he began receiving calls for help almost immediately.
“We’ve received calls from almost every state in the Union,” Coffey said
Churches have partnered with the foundation to provide a support system for those who have completed rehabilitation programs and returned to the area.
Future plans include developing more programs to help those who have successfully completed a rehabilitation program.
This week Coffey received calls from Nigeria and the United Kingdom asking for guidance and help in setting up a rehabilitation center.