Founded in 2002, Healing House is Missouri’s largest provider of substance use recovery housing. In its twenty years of operation, it has served over 1,100 individuals by providing transitional housing, substance abuse recovery programming, and job search assistance. Healing House manages sixteen properties spread across northeast Kansas City, and on any given day almost 200 individuals reside in these homes and apartments.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Healing House staff had to scramble to find ways to ensure their residents could remain connected, and could continue receiving the support and programming they needed. For Michael Liimatta, COO of Healing House and long-time digital inclusion veteran, this began with ensuring that Healing House’s residences were equipped with the right technology. The first step was to install a VOIP phone system in all of the properties, giving each resident a dedicated phone line and extension number that tied all the houses together. Second was ensuring that every resident had a device they could use to access the internet. For this, Healing House approached PCs for People to procure enough laptops for every resident and staff member to have a device. Liimatta also worked to improve the connectivity of the residences by installing industrial-strength Wi-Fi in the larger houses. These upgrades were possible thanks in part to funding provided by the Missouri Department of Mental Health, which provided Healing House with approximately $40,000 to ensure its residents were able to access telehealth services.
Once residents’ connectivity needs were met, Healing House focused on making it as easy as possible for individuals to access support services and employment assistance online. In order to make it easier for classes and counseling to occur online, Healing House built four enclosed booths equipped with a PC and webcam so that residents could undertake their 1:1 virtual counseling sessions in private. The flexibility afforded by the shift to telehealth also allowed Healing House to recruit a new full-time counselor from Wisconsin to serve residents. Healing House also operates a computer lab that serves to help residents learn how to create a resume, sign up for an email address, and apply for jobs online. Even as the pandemic eases, Healing House is set to expand their digital programming to ensure that their residents emerge prepared to succeed in a digital society.
Michael Liimatta, COO of Healing House, presented to the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion on August 5, 2022.