Saving Lives, One Treatment Bed at a Time

By Jodi Sh. Doff 09/06/17

Partnering with treatment centers nationwide, Jean’s goal is to award 10,000 scholarship treatment beds by the end of 2020.

Truck towing 10,000 Beds trailer
10,000 Beds is on the road for at least one year.

Jean and Hal Krisle’s son was struggling with addiction. That was the spark that got 10,000 Beds started—a way to help addicts who needed to start treatment, but didn’t have the financial resources. “We went through that whole trial not really knowing what we were doing, but thankfully had some financial resources and knew some people in the industry (that could) help us figure out what we were dealing with..”

Partnering with treatment centers nationwide, Jean’s goal is to award 10,000 scholarship treatment beds by the end of 2020. “Treatment centers do scholarships on their own all the time, but nobody was organizing it. A ton of time goes into the application and screening process. If 10,000 Beds can get that done for them, we've saved them hours of work and done enough homework so they're not scholarshipping somebody that's just going to walk away.”

Jean’s son was newly sober when Jean and Hal sold their home and took off for a year on the road raising awareness about addiction and soliciting scholarships from treatment centers, rehabs, and detoxes across the country. I caught up with Jean on a fundraising hiatus after four hectic months on the road.

“The first 90 days were crazy, zigzagging all over the U.S. We met amazing people, were able to share our message, but it’s not easy to pick up and move every day. We want to be somewhere for at least three days to reach out to at least three treatment centers in the area, visit someone we’re already a partner with, pick up someone as a new partner, and introduce ourselves to somebody that’s never even heard of us. We plan around key events and conferences, like OhioCan’s Steps of Change in Summit County, the Art of Recovery in Florida, and in Indiana, with Bridges of Hope. If someone invites us to an event, and it makes sense for us to be there, we are more than happy to be there.”

The beginning was just a telephone, a note pad, Jean, and a potential client—an addict in need of a bed in treatment. Now, at nearly 100 applications a month, that’s evolved into a 30+ page online questionnaire used to assess if someone is “really ready for help. If they just heard ‘Hey, I can get a free bed and stay at some really nice treatment center for thirty days’ they’re gonna get to about question five and they’re done. They’re not going to take the time.”

Jean describes her target client: “Mom and Dad already sent them to rehab. Grandma might have chipped in too, and they're done. They've been couch surfing because they don't have a job. No income. Their friends are tired of things going missing from their apartment, and are about to throw them out. This person realizes they're going to be on the street if they don't get some help. They think ‘This is not the life I planned. I’ve got to get some help.’ They’ve hit bottom, and aren’t willing to go live on the streets. Those are the people we’re looking for. They're Ready for help. They're Willing, right now. And they're Able, in a physical and medical condition that allows me to be able to place them.”

Once an applicant is accepted, Jean plays matchmaker, finding the right treatment center based on medical needs, drug of choice, and other variables. “Right now (we have) a client who is insulin dependent. Although there are treatment centers that will deal with that, we've run into a lot who won’t. [If] they're on probation and we've found a place for them out of state, we have to work with probation to get permission. We are not that 24/7 emergency hotline you call when you need to get in that moment.”

After the treatment center does a final assessment, 10,000 Beds covers the client’s transportation expenses, occasionally incidentals, and can contribute up to $300 a month towards necessary medications. “Our average cost is around $450-500 and we're giving them a $25,000 scholarship. We awarded over 1 million dollars in scholarships last year, and we’ll hit at least 2.5 million worth of scholarships by the end of this year. I'm hoping for 5 million in placements by the end of 2018.”

Defining success in recovery is tricky. Is it 90 days? One year? A lifetime? Rehab, relapse, and return can be an exhausting cycle for anyone in this industry, so what makes someone leave their family, sell their home, and live out of a tin can (albeit a large and luxurious tin can) on the road?

“We’re parents that are grateful that we have a son in recovery and that we can help others. We do the initial screening and then we pass it on. We get thank you letters on a regular basis. One of them started with Dear Mr. & Mrs. 10,000 Beds.

“My husband's been working with this client who’s had strokes as a result of his drug use; he had a heart defect to begin with. He's an addict. He knows he can have a heart attack any day. He's been in 30 days and he sent us an email and said, 'I love the program. I was slow to catch on, I'm gonna tell you the truth, but I think I need more time.' We have this amazing treatment center that would give him a long term scholarship. That evening, Hal talked to him like he was a son. 'Look, you’re 25. You've had three strokes. You have no job skills. No education. This place would give you all of that, and at 27, you'd have a new life. Are you willing to commit to 24 months in a rehab that’ll provide you these skills?' And with no hesitation, the young man said, 'Absolutely. I've never had that kind of opportunity in my whole life.' Hal and I both just teared up. Hal said, 'There are times when I feel like this is a job and there are times when I don't feel like this is a job. And today, I don't think this was a job; I was supposed to reach out to this kid.' 

"I stayed in touch with our first two scholarships, they were a couple then, living on the streets. He was 27 and had been an addict since 13. She'd been an addict since she was 19, she was 24 and had lost the ability to see her daughter. They were passed out on the floor of a light rail in Phoenix, Arizona, and somebody tapped them on the shoulder, handed him my card, and said ‘If you want to change your life, call this lady.’ They didn’t stay clean and sober after their first scholarship. Each of them had to find their own rehab a second time, but both of them are clean and sober now, and they're doing awesome and they stay in touch with me. It's been two years. She has her daughter back. He has a full time job in Hawaii. I have no idea who gave him my card and it was within three months of me starting 10,000 Beds. I'd only been to one conference.”

For the last three and a half years, any social media posts, grant applications, client admissions, bank deposits, changes to the website, anything that happened at all, Jean was behind it.

“We have got to build our staff. That's why we're parked. We've got to get this grant money so I can hire #1 a fund raiser, and #2 probably a part-time employee to handle the applications with Hal. When you're getting almost 100 qualified applicants every month, and you only have 250 partners that have committed one bed a year, the numbers just don't work. We need more beds, and that's why we go out on the road. I need beds, I need funding, and the funding will bring me staff. We survive on donations

As a parent of an addict in recovery, I want to tell other parents to One: never give up. Two: remember this isn't your child that's lying to you. We tell ourselves, Oh my child would never do that my, child would never lie to me about that. But it's not the child that's doing it, it's the addiction within the child. If you can separate the addiction from the child, then it's much easier to draw those lines that have to be drawn. And Three: support meetings, Al-Anon, whatever you can do to educate yourself, because we need a support group or person just like they do to help us to return to normalcy as much as we can.”

So far, Mr. and Mrs 10,000 Beds have awarded hundreds of 10,000 Beds scholarships. And this fall, Jean’s son will celebrate three years clean and sober.

10,000 Beds (Ten Thousand Beds, Inc) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law.

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Jodi Sh. Doff is a self-described scribbler, shutterbug, and succulent cactus. She writes about booze, sex, crime, and righteous feminist indignation. She is also an editor, script doctor and a ghostwriter for non-native english speakers. You can find Jodi on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.