An update of one of CITC’s most notable programs made all the difference for Thomas McMichael
In 2019, Thomas did exactly that. After serving a brief stint in prison and struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, he came to the Chanlyut program for recovery support. He graduated from the program, newly sober, in 2020.
“But I wasn’t done running around,” he said. “I accomplished a lot at Chanlyut, but I wasn’t equipped to get a good job. Not having a job, that really dampens your life. You’ve got no way to take care of yourself, and that makes it easier to use.”
A New Focus
Before 2021, the Chanlyut Program at the Bill Tsurnos House offered workforce development as part of the recovery process. Men came to live at the residence primarily to receive support for their recovery and, while there, they also gained job skills and learned to be accountable at work.
But in February of this year, when Chanlyut reopened as an American Society of Addiction Medicine level 3.1 inpatient treatment program, the program placed more emphasis providing case management and workforce development.
Rather than coming to Chanlyut for recovery services, most individuals who enter the program will have already completed a treatment program. They will spend their time at Chanlyut — about six weeks, on average — working on their interviewing skills, building their resumes, applying for drivers licenses and other certifications or forms of ID with the assistance of a case manager, and developing the tools that will help them find good jobs.
“A lot of men who come to us are missing those components that would allow them to find work,” said Daniel Perkins, Chanlyut program manager. “We work with them not only to give them confidence in their abilities, but to develop the hard and soft skills they need to be successful in the work place.”
“Now I Have Something to Lose”
That’s what made the difference for Thomas.
Thomas, who grew up in Anchorage, comes from a family that has struggled with addiction. Although he was on track to graduated from college in his 20s, he found work and left school before he could finish his bachelors degree. After “a constant battle” with alcoholism, Thomas became addicted to heroin in his 30s. From there, he wound up in jail for about a year.
When it came to treatment and recovery, his second stay at Chanlyut was the charm.
“The second time, I took care of not just treatment, but getting my license and learning how to be noticed by a potential employer,” he explained.
“The first time I got out of treatment [at Chanlyut], I didn’t have anything but myself. The main difference this time is I have something to lose now. I have a good job. I don’t want to mess that up. I’m tired of taking two steps back — now I’m motivated.”
Support for Success
During his stay at Chanlyut, Thomas attended Job Club, hosted by Alaska’s People, and worked with an Employment and Training Services (ETSD) case manager to apply for classes at Northern Industrial Training (NIT). He began working toward his certification in heavy equipment operation at NIT in Palmer right after completing the Chanlyut program.
“ETSD took care of the bill for NIT [through the Vocational Training Grants Program],” Thomas shared. Since his classes were located in Palmer, he was also eligible for support with staying at a hotel while attending class, as well as funds for work clothing, tools, and other necessary items.
Today, Thomas works for Signature Land Services. “I feel like this job is a long-term job,” he says — though he has dreams of one day owning rental units and working for himself as a property manager.
“I tell people about Chanlyut all the time,” he said. “I’m just really grateful for CITC’s services — for being able to go to NIT, for Alaska’s People, for the genuineness of the staff. They really want to help.”