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Living Free reflects on a decade dedicated to recovery from addiction — PHOTOS

When someone struggling with addiction strikes out on their journey of recovery, support from outside sources can mean the difference between success and failure.

This a fact that Pahrump resident Shelley Poerio knows all too well and it’s one of the reasons she launched her nonprofit Living Free Health and Fitness. Geared toward providing an array of services and programs for those seeking a life free from the control of their addiction, Living Free Health recently reached a major milestone, with a full decade of operation now under its belt. To mark this incredible anniversary, Living Free Health hosted a celebration this month and Poerio said she was very humbled by the turnout.

“We are really pleased and honored that so many came out to help us celebrate this important milestone,” Poerio told the Pahrump Valley Times. “

As Assemblyman Greg Hafen II mentioned, few make it to five years in business; 10 years is a big deal!”

Hafen was one of several guest speakers at the 10-year anniversary celebration, with Nye County Sheriff Joe McGill, Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf and former Nye County Commissioner John Koenig also speaking, along with Living Free Board Members Tom Metscher and Ryan Muccio. An attendee from the audience who is in recovery also spoke, performing a poem she wrote about addiction. Other notable attendees included Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Kim Wanker and Living Free Board Member Tasha Douglas, who were joined by dozens of area residents all out to show their support for the work that Living Free does.

Poerio said it is hard to nail down a precise number of clients whose lives have been changed by Living Free’s services because, in addition to those who have received formal treatment, there are many who have been helped on a pro-bono basis or via volunteer work. However, she said it would be fair to estimate that several thousand people have been helped on their recovery journey and many more have undoubtedly benefited indirectly as their loved ones achieve a healthy, sober lifestyle.

Living Free Health was founded in Las Vegas in 2013 and Poerio was glad to be able to move the nonprofit to the Pahrump Valley when she relocated here in 2017.

“My goal was to bring services to an area that I saw as lacking in services, as well as to allow me to return to my roots of living in a rural area,” she detailed. “In early 2019, Living Free Health leased two houses and opened men’s and women’s sober living. In June of that year, we attained Substance Abuse Prevention Treatment Agency credentialing for outpatient treatment and housing. Our application to be a Medicaid provider was accepted around January, 2019 and prior to that, we had provided treatment for free and charged for housing.

“As I built relationships with Nye County Parole and Probation, juvenile probation, the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, drug court, justice court and others - such as the Soroptimist International of the Pahrump Valley, No to Abuse and the NyE Communities Coalition - we acquired more clients and built a solid reputation for excellence,” Poerio continued. “Living Free Health is actually a great ‘scratch-and-claw-our-way-to-the-top’ story, despite being a 501(c)3. Corporate culture is informed by my previous business experience, my current licensing and the fact that I am a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict, with uninterrupted abstinence since Sept. 5, 2001.”

Today, Living Free Health operates three sober “transition living” homes and is expecting to close on a loan for yet another this coming August. “At closing, Living Free will own two homes and lease two homes, all stick-built, with a total capacity of 27 beds,” Poerio said, with these available for men, women and women with up to two children ages 8 and under, pregnant women and/or those working with a DCFS case and pending reunification.

Poerio has also expanded Living Free Health’s offices to include four suites at 2050 N. Highway 160, which are used for Living Free’s treatment services, 12-step program, community activities and overall administration.

“We currently have approximately 45 active adult clients and four juvenile probation clients,” Poerio reported.

In addition to Living Free Health and Fitness, Poerio has grown her organization to include Living Free Cafe, a restaurant serving a variety of tasty breakfast and lunch options as well as beverages to delight the palate. The cafe plays a role in providing a revenue stream that can be used to support Living Free Health’s many programs but as Poerio noted, it’s more than just a source of income.

“The cafe is really an example of an evidence-based ‘therapeutic workplace’,” she explained, with many, although not all, of its staff members people who are working toward addiction recovery. Through hiring, training and supporting these staffers, Poerio is able to have an even bigger impact on their lives, giving them skills and experience that will serve them well long into the future.

“Our mission is treating addiction with whole-health solutions,” Poerio said. “While that implies treatment, fitness and nutrition, providing job skills, opportunities to rebuild confidence and self-esteem and reduce anxiety and feeling of negative self-worth are part of the wrap-around ‘service’ that the therapeutic workplace idea instills.”

Soon, Living Free Gym will be added to the Living Free repertoire, providing a second “therapeutic workplace” that will simultaneously allow for a safe, stable environment in which those in recovery can exercise and enjoy social interaction.

“I feel humbled to have reached this milestone,” a very pleased Poerio enthused. “And blessed, to have had the help and support needed to be successful. Also, very grateful to my parents for having instilled in me the importance of honesty, hard work, tenacity and never giving up, no matter the challenges or setbacks.”

Living Free Health and Fitness is located at 2050 N. Highway 160, at the corner of Highway 160 and Mesquite Avenue.

For more information visit www.LivingFreeHealth.org or call 775-505-1625.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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