At first glance, The Sanctuary looks like most other farms in the Seaford area.

A long, winding driveway leads to a two-story house surrounded by land in all directions. Animals graze outside near a barn, and an area of tilled soil awaits the planting of crops.

These 17 acres are special, though — soon, they will be home to Delaware’s first recovery farm, which will offer residential treatment to 10 parenting and pregnant women recovering from addiction.

While the farm is still in the final stages of approval before it can open, The Sanctuary is far from empty. Ophelia and Mouse — two small Nigerian Dwarf goats — were the recovery farm’s first official residents. They were later joined by four pigs in the barn and pens behind the house, and will soon have some cows for neighbors as well.

The all-female staff is there, too, tending to the animals, overseeing final construction on the house and preparing for the day that the first 10 women move in. These residents will ideally live at the farm for six to 12 months before stepping down to transitional housing, though they can stay at The Sanctuary for up to two years if necessary.

The goats are featured at The Sanctuary at Impact Life Farm in Seaford, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. The recovery farm, the first in the state, will soon open for people recovering from addiction.

The creation and certification of the recovery farm have been overseen by Domenica Personti and her nonprofit Impact Life, which operates recovery homes and works in the community to reduce the harm of addiction statewide.

Personti said that by opening the recovery farm in Seaford, she hopes to provide critical resources to two groups of people that are historically underserved when it comes to addiction treatment: pregnant and parenting women and those living in rural areas.

Barriers to recovery

Many treatment programs don’t allow mothers to bring their children — an insurmountable barrier for many women, especially those who are their kids’ primary caretakers. Help with reunification for mothers who lost custody of their children isn’t always a priority, either.

“We just expect (mothers) to kind of go on with their lives and pick up where they left off and stay sober,” Personti said. “How difficult is that when you have lost your kids? That’s unimaginable.”

The barn area is featured at The Sanctuary at Impact Life Farm in Seaford, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. The recovery farm, the first in the state, will soon open for people recovering from addiction.

For pregnant and parenting women living in Kent and Sussex counties — especially outside of cities — accessing treatment is even harder.

With how spread out the population is in more rural areas, the nearest resources may be too far to reach. Substance use disorder also tends to have more stigma downstate, according to Personti.

That doesn’t mean the need for treatment isn’t there though.

In 2020, Sussex County had the highest overdose mortality rate in the state, according to the Division of Forensic Science. The following year, Kent County reported the largest relative spike in overdose deaths.

Impact Life CEO Domenica Personti cleans the field of The Sanctuary at Impact Life Farm in Seaford, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. The recovery farm, the first in the state, will soon open for people recovering from addiction.

Life at the farm

While being outside of major cities downstate can be a challenge for people seeking recovery services, in the case of The Sanctuary, the isolation may be a good thing.

It’s an opportunity for women to recover in a place free of typical stressors and triggers, especially for women who live in areas with high drug use.

“When you put people in a place where there’s a lot of peace and serenity, it sets them up for better success,” Personti said.

The view is featured from one of the master bedroom's at The Sanctuary at Impact Life Farm in Seaford, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. The recovery farm, the first in the state, will soon open for people recovering from addiction.

Ashley Gray, The Sanctuary’s primary therapist, said that every day at the farm will be structured for the residents. The schedule includes everything from agricultural work to peer-led groups to morning meditation walks in the woods.

Gray will also run daily clinical therapy groups on topics like dealing with cravings and preventing relapses, as well as one-on-one sessions.

Living at the farm isn’t just about staying sober, Gray said — it’s about learning life skills.

From left, Ashley Gray, Domenica Personti, Melissa Sellers and Lauren Steward stand outside The Sanctuary at Impact Life Farm in Seaford, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. The recovery farm, the first in the state, will soon open for people recovering from addiction.

by Hannah Edelman | Delaware News Journal

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2023/04/03/addiction-recovery-in-delaware-how-seaford-farm-aims-to-help-mothers/70028768007/