The eight women huddled around in a semi-circle Friday night.
One sat in a chair, nursing an infant baby, while the others sat with smiles on their faces talking to one another. Through two windows, the evening sun was setting on a picturesque view of the hills of East Tennessee.
But the views from atop the hill where the women stay in a three-story home don’t tell the whole story.
The women are former addicts who have found refuge at the place, lovingly referred to as “The Cabin.” The log cabin that sits in the woods of White Pine, in view of the Smoky Mountains, has issues that need addressed: things like news windows and a more stable driveway to get in and out of the home.
“I hope 10 years from now, we don’t need it anymore,” said Steve Palmer, a proponent of The Cabin. “But, it doesn’t look like it’s going that way.”
Steve, and his wife Cammie, held a fundraiser at their home Friday night to raise money for The Cabin to help with repairs and also help maybe even have enough money for some “dream” items. The Cabin was the work of Circuit Court Judge Duane Slone, who established a drug recovery court for the 4th Judicial District, which serves Cocke, Jefferson, Grainger and Sevier counties.
U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., came to the event and was special guest speaker.
Blackburn told the crowd of about 50 people that were gathered in the home of the Palmers that opioid addiction has touched everyone and spoke about how she has worked at the federal level to help curb the crisis.
Just this week, she met with FBI Director Christopher Wray to talk about the epidemic and spoke about the work of the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force that in April netted 60 arrests that included medical professionals, half of them doctors.
Blackburn said it’s known that more is needed and rehabilitation is not going to be an easy fix.
“We know a 30-day treatment doesn’t work,” he said. “A 60-day treatment doesn’t work, a three-month treatment doesn’t work.”
She said it takes almost 18 months for a user’s brain to get whole again.
She said the recovery community is essential for users to feel and know they are safe.
“This is what really leads to a long-term recovery and a healed life,” she said.
The Palmers then showed a 10-minute video of an appearance made by Slone and a former resident of the home, Raven, on the Megyn Kelly show.
Kelly showed The Cabin and spoke with Slone. He spoke to her how, in his younger years, he was a fiery prosecutor that put addicts behind bars. But, one day, as a judge, he saw an opioid addict who was pregnant, but could not kick her addiction and it touched his heart.
So, he decided to do something about it and help out.
He helped establish drug recovery court and found a way to get The Cabin up and running, initially a safe place for women who were pregnant and on drugs to get off drugs then have their babies.
Kelly, during the video referred to Slone as having a “bleeding heart” and “soft.”
As the video ended, Slone came to make a few comments. He immediately laughed and joked about the video.
“Here’s the bleeding heart softie,” he said. “Just what you want a judge to be.”
But, he became serious and spoke about The Cabin.
He said government has its role, but can only do so much.
“It’s the community that needs to meet people where they are,” he said.
The 4th Judicial Recovery Services, the non-profit that runs The Cabin, is hoping to raise almost $277,000 for The Cabin.
The list of repairs includes roof repairs.
“You can tell the roof is about destroyed,” Steve Palmer said.
It also includes replacing windows, repairing rotten wood around gutters, repairing cracks, paving the driveway and paving the office parking lot.
The repairs would cost around $114,000.
The dream list includes deck, railing and equipment for a woodworking shop, buying a nearby house that could be used by residents and adding four bedrooms and two baths to the cabin.
The items on the dream list would cost around $162,550, Steve Palmer said.
Patty Williams, director of Recovery Court and the Recovery Center, stood in The Cabin Friday night as guests of the Palmers’ arrived to take a tour of the facility.
She said the repairs, if done, would be “huge.”
“If some of the repairs don’t get done soon, we’ll have windows falling out,” she said.
The home holds a total of nine women. Eight are in the facility right now.
Most come through Slone’s drug recovery court where they apply to come to the facility. It first started out as a facility for pregnant women, but now is offered to all women.
An average stay for a woman at the home is between 12 to 14 months. They come in under strict guidelines in order to get clean and as they progress through their program they are given more leniency as far as leaving the home.
They are encouraged to find work.
The hope is that once they leave they will be clean and have the tools needed to be self-sufficient.
Many of these women’s’ stories are similar. They came from broken homes with broken parents. They all started using at a young age until it got progressively worse.
Then a light bulb lit and they realized they needed to change their lives. They found that by going through Slone.
The Cabin opened in January 2014 and in February 2014 the first baby was born at the facility. Since then a total of 15 babies have been born at the facility, all drug free.
All were drug free.
That’s the ultimate goal.
“Our goal here is to give a place for women to birth a baby drug free,” Williams said.