How Prescott Arizona Became Recovery City, USA

By Dirk Hanson 06/08/11

Is it something in the air? Prescott is becoming America's "Recovery City."

Making the pilgrimage to Prescott.
Photo via aaroads

The truth is, not all that much happens in Prescott, Arizona. Back in 1964, Barry Goldwater launched his doomed presidential campaign from the steps of Prescott's Yavapai County Courthouse. Its most famous local residents are arguably Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille, otherwise known as The Captain and Tennille, who’ve only lived there since 2007. Maybe it has to do with the town’s proximity to the spooky vibes of nearby Sedona, but Prescott is a singular town, considering its size. It is home to six long-term residential treatment centers, as well as dozens of halfway houses, sober living homes, and detox clinics—all in a town with a population of roughly 40,000 people. According to the Prescott Daily Courier, more than 1,200 people are in active treatment on any given day. That works out to roughly one out of every 30 people in Prescott. Unofficially, Prescott is Arizona’s “Recovery City.” Like a snowball rolling gradually downhill, sobriety became a major local industry over the past twenty years. The city’s West Yavapai Guidance Clinic, which began operating in 1966, has been a consistent force for recovery awareness in the community. But clients for treatment in Prescott are not strictly local by any means. The word is out, and a quick Internet search for addiction recovery in Prescott will prove the point. Despite some local opposition to the influx of “undesirables,” Prescott physicians involved in treatment say the steady availability of ongoing support services keeps the city’s reputation high in the rehab world. “It’s an extremely strong recovery-based community,” said a recovery worker. The Courier speculated that “some come to Prescott because their specific services are here, others because they’ve worn out the system in their hometowns, or because they have come to realize that a fundamental way to break the cycle of addiction and relapse is to break ties with familiar people and situations.”

Tim Davis of the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic said he wondered about the logic that compelled some locals to view all this with alarm. The people here, he said, “have made a commitment to sobriety.” And as a society, he asks, “isn’t that what we want, for people to help themselves and get better?”

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]

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