In a world that feels constantly connected, it’s hard to imagine a time when “just Google it” didn’t bring you the answers you were looking for. But for Linda Strother, a retired public health nurse in Wake County, it wasn’t that easy.
“For several years, we’d been working hard to address the rising homelessness and addiction problems in the community, but it wasn’t enough,” she recalled. “In 1993, we started to see the rapid rise of these issues in our community and the devastation it caused for so many.”
Back then, Wake County had just eight detox beds and 26 substance use rehabilitation beds in the entire county. The County organized a task force with several community partners to find a program that could address this urgent need. Linda was volunteered to serve as the chair of the committee, but she could’ve never imagined what that request would turn into.
“It scared the liver out of me, to tell you the truth. Are you kidding me? I was so frustrated. I was looking for all kinds of solutions but nothing suited me. Nothing fit what I was looking for.”
“Bringing The Healing Place program to Wake County was like a dream to me,” Linda shared fondly. “It was like building the steps of recovery from nothing to something. That’s exactly how I felt about it. It took so many people. I still don’t know how I found the program in the first place. I think it was a Higher Power. I really do.”
And then it happened. On January 14, 1997, long after her teammates had turned off the lights in the office and left to go home, Linda was still at her desk, typing and searching and looking desperately for something that would help.
“I stayed in my office until seven o’clock that night. It was dark outside. And I wasn’t very computer literate at all. I put my finger on the keys, counted to five, and guess what? The Healing Place of Louisville, Kentucky came up on the screen (a site which, at the time, had only been viewed 701 times ever). It just appeared. I got cold chills from my toes to my head. I had been so agonized, so tired, so frustrated. And then there it was.”
Linda presented the program to her boss, Maria Spaulding, who was the Director of Wake County Human Services at the time. Maria quickly realized its potential and made it a top priority for the department. Soon after, Maria led an 18-person delegation of community partners to visit the program in Kentucky. Three members of that group – Maria Spaulding, Barbara Goodmon (Wake County Human Services board member), and Fred Barber (Senior Vice President for Broadcasting at Capitol Broadcasting Company) – were so inspired by what they saw on that trip that they agreed to do whatever it took to bring the program to Wake County. The group, known as The Dynamic Trio, was born! When construction began in 2000, Linda and her husband visited the construction site. “I kissed the bricks!” Linda said with a laugh.
Linda shares her reflections as she looks back on Healing Transitions’ 20-year history.
“Chris Budnick is the true hero of this program,” she shared. “He is the only person who has been there from the writing of the first program policies to seeing the construction of the men’s and women’s campuses to the day-to-day joys and challenges of running Healing Transitions for all of the 20 years of existence. He is incredible.”
She also reminisced about her role in the organization’s success. “I just felt so good being a part of Healing Transitions,” she acknowledged. “Sometimes, it can be so frustrating to be a nurse, seeing what we see every day. But deep down, human beings can be really good, you know? We can all make things better.”