Red Barn Recovery fights drugs and alcohol with farming, hard work

Sunday , July 30, 2017 - 5:00 AM

MARK SAAL, Standard-Examiner Staff

FARMINGTON — It’s the first thing Mike Haws points out to visitors. A large, framed photograph of his younger brother, Dustin, hanging on a wall at Red Barn Farms.

According to Haws, his brother is the reason behind the distinctive red barn with the white trim, located just west of Interstate 15 near Station Park. Dustin died five years ago, at the age of 21, of a heroin overdose.

Haws, a recovering addict himself, knows that under different circumstances the two brothers might have traded places.

“I believe it could very easily have been Dustin here talking to you, and my picture on the wall,” says Haws, who is director of Red Barn Farms and a licensed drug and alcohol counselor.

Dustin died June 29, 2012. Twenty-seven days later, Haws gave up drugs and alcohol. He just celebrated five years of sobriety on July 26.

Red Barn had its beginnings back in 1976. That year, Mike’s parents, Rich and Krista Haws, bought a Farmington dairy farm west of I-15 that has since become the commercial and residential developments Station Park and Park Lane Commons. Originally, Red Barn Farms was little more than a barn in the middle of a pasture in the northeast corner of The Haws Companies’ land — an attempt, in Haws’ father’s words, to put the “farm” back in “Farmington.”

“My dad built this building eight or nine years ago,” Haws explains. “My mother said, ‘Rich, what are you doing building that barn?’ and Dad said, ‘I don’t know, it just feels right.’”

After Dustin’s death, the reason for the barn became clearer. Haws says his family wanted to be a part of the solution to the epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse in Davis County, so they started offering addiction support groups out of the building. For two years now, the Haws family has been offering free daily workshops and group meetings out of the iconic red barn. Haws says they’re currently working with about 50 people on a weekly basis.

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“This was basically just a garage,” Haws says, looking around what is now a well-lit meeting room with a large conference table. “The meetings were held next to a big orange Kubota tractor in a garage, with a few fold-up chairs.”

The Haws family began gradually retrofitting the barn and adding buildings, and what is a 2 ½-acre farm is evolving into what will become Red Barn Recovery — a seven-acre complex that will feature residential dorms for men and women battling addiction. It will also include a conference center.

Get your hands dirty

The philosophy at Red Barn is different from a typical drug and alcohol treatment center. Haws is a firm believer in behavioral modification: Breaking down an individual, and then — through responsibilities and chores on the farm — build them back up. Haws insists there’s no substitute for good, hard, physical work like that found on a farm.

“We use the farm,” he said. “We believe in hard work, exercise, proper nutrition, sleep. … They work with the animals and get their hands dirty.”

Alpacas, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats and horses are among the animals on the farm. There are also beehives and a “Serenity Trail.” Plus, they’re looking to add goats and pigs to the farm.

Haws says acting out an addiction is the most self-centered thing a person can do, so he tries to get them outside of themselves by requiring them to care for the animals and gardens on the farm.

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“My goal is that every resident has an animal and a grow box to take care of,” he said. “We don’t just sit in a room and talk about our issues.”

Kristi Hensley, a recovery support specialist with Davis Behavioral Health, runs some of the after-car addiction meetings at Red Barn, as well as a drug court alumni meeting. She says the Farmington farm offers an open and supporting community to all.

“I think it’s a great program,” she said. “I completely support it.”

‘Therapeutic community’

Red Barn recently completed a 32-bed residential facility for men. Called “The Bunkhouse,” the plan is to have it open by Sept. 1. Then, eventually, a 20- to 30-bed women’s residence will be added.

“And then we’ll have to build a Donald Trump Wall,” Haws says with a smile. “We don’t want a bunch of Red Barn babies around here.”

Hensley looks forward to the opening of the men’s residential facility. She said Davis County has a very limited amount of “sober livings” — recovery residences where addicts and those coming out of jail with felony convictions can transition back to daily life.

“There’s nowhere to house them,” Hensley said. “This will give a lot of men the opportunity to build on their recovery, and build a new life for themselves.”

Rather than a treatment center, Haws sees Red Barn Recovery as a “therapeutic community.” The facility is a nonprofit, peer-run program with no doctors or Ph.Ds on staff — which keeps costs down.

“Basically, the inmates are running the asylum,” Haws says with a laugh. “Actually, a life skills academy is what this is. We don’t need another treatment center in Utah.”

Peer-based

Jeff Marrott, public information officer with the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, said he thinks Red Barn Recovery is on the right track with its peer-run programming.

“Peer-based recovery is the wave of the future, because that provides support after treatment, after jail, when real life hits,” he said. “Sometimes, all you need is a peer; someone who’s been there.”

Marrott said the state substance abuse and mental health division believes there are multiple ways to recovery, and that everyone needs to find his or her own path. The division embraces all programs that employ evidence-based practices.

 

“We like Red Barn, we think it’s a good alternative,” Marrott said. “It’s too soon to tell just how effective they will be, but we think they’re doing a great job.”

Unlike many treatment centers, Red Barn Recovery is a cash-pay program — it doesn’t take insurance. Haws says the reason he doesn’t want to deal with insurance companies is because he doesn’t want those companies telling him how to run his programs.

That’s not to say the residential facility will be financially out of reach of those who need it most. The majority of the residents will be working for their room and board, according to Haws — both by working on the farm, and by mowing lawns, weeding flower beds and doing other jobs for Haws’ property maintenance company.

Hensley believes the work-for-treatment approach will be particularly effective at Red Barn.

“I think that’s what will make it work,” she said. “When you have to put the work in — when it’s not just handed to you — it’s more meaningful.”

Doing it right

Over the years, Farmington City and the Haws family have occasionally clashed over differing visions for the land west of I-15. In 2013, The Haws Companies sued Farmington City over problems encountered in trying to develop a large parcel of land north of Station Park. That suit was later dropped.

“We’ve had some very difficult challenges, but I think we’re all trying to put it in the past,” said Farmington city manager Dave Millheim.

The city is trying to plan for a mixed-use area in the vicinity of Red Barn Farms, and Millheim thinks this recovery center fits in nicely with the city’s vision.

“They’re trying to do it right,” he said. “That land could have been more valuable as an apartment complex or a commercial center, but at the end of the day it’s not all about money. I think what they’re doing on that parcel is noble and well-thought through.”

And although some might question a drug and alcohol recovery facility in Farmington, Millheim said residents are kidding themselves if they think those problems don’t exist in their community.

“Any family that says it hasn’t been touched by drugs or alcohol is lying,” Millheim said.

Down the road, Haws sees what’s being done at Red Barn Farms replicated across the country. He’d love to see similar Red Barns all over the country, helping addicts like him and his brother Dustin.

Haws doesn’t hesitate when asked about Red Barn Farms’ ultimate goal.

“Saving lives,” he says. “Because those who don’t get on the path to recovery aren’t around very long. There just aren’t many recreational heroin users out there. They either get sober, or they die.”

And Haws believes firmly that if his brother would have had access to a place like Red Barn, he would not only still be alive, but also be thriving.

“The addiction cycle is not an easy one to break — 90 percent of us don’t make it to one year of sobriety,” Haws said. “But if we make it to a year, then 90 percent of us make it to two years.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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