The Rev. Billy Edwards' organization, Nehemiah Family Services, will be making its way to Fillmore County, working in outpatient treatment for substance abuse. Both the person using the substances and that person's family will receive the aid they need for healing from Edwards and his staff. The nonprofit will be operating out of the United Methodist Church in Preston. BRETTA GRABAU/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
The Rev. Billy Edwards' organization, Nehemiah Family Services, will be making its way to Fillmore County, working in outpatient treatment for substance abuse. Both the person using the substances and that person's family will receive the aid they need for healing from Edwards and his staff. The nonprofit will be operating out of the United Methodist Church in Preston. BRETTA GRABAU/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP

Substance abuse is a real issue all over the world, Including Fillmore County. Sadly, it is also true that getting addicted to substances is a whole lot easier than getting out of using them.

Because it is so difficult to climb out of this abuse, it seems someone is always suffering. It is often the person using the substance that is thought of most and has all the services and counseling at his or her disposal. But they are not the only ones affected.

The person's family must also go through a journey to heal from addiction. Realizing this, an organization was developed to help each individual harmed in some way from substance abuse. And it's making its way to Fillmore County.

Because the healing process includes more than just one person, the Rev. Billy Edwards from Dodge Center began a ministry dedicated to working with families as well. This ministry, called Nehemiah Family Services, focuses on outpatient treatment for substance abuse.

"I am a firm believer in restorative justice," Edwards noted. "The crimes the people I work with have committed are not a crime against the state, but a crime against the community. They just need to come back to terms in the community."

Since there are so many supportive services for the person using the substances and hardly any for the families, this is exactly where Edwards stepped in to fill the gap.

"The judicial system seems to leave the community out of the process," he said.

Prior to founding Nehemiah Family Services, Edwards worked with a tri-county probationary agreement between Dodge County, Fillmore County and Olmsted County (DFO). However, eventually grant money began to disappear, forcing many people and services, like those offered by Edwards and his staff, out of the county. In order to continue to offer his services, Edwards created Nehemiah Family Services as a very small, nonprofit organization.

"There was no money left to do the DFO, so I originally started Nehemiah Family Services to be a temporary Band-Aid until we could raise enough money. It eventually grew into a licensed business," Edwards said.

Part of his philosophy of Nehemiah Family Services is that he is more concerned about the families than some other organizations.

"There is a lot of support out there for people on probation. But no one asks the family what they need when going through this," he added.

Nehemiah Family Services got its name based on the Biblical Nehemiah who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls after they had been destroyed by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.

"We got the name from Nehemiah in the Old Testament. When Nehemiah returned to rebuild the wall, each family had to clean up his own yard. This sounds a lot like recovery," Edwards described.

Since he understood the actions of this Biblical character, relating to a certain extent to the recovery process from substance abuse, Edwards sought to provide assistance to the families as well and named the organization Nehemiah Family Services.

There is a tremendous change in a family's life after being affected by substance abuse. A family's work schedule may be completely altered and affected because of appointments to help that one person through the healing process.

"Families need to take off work to help. We want to give them a chance to speak up and be heard," Edwards commented.

After the funding vanished for the DFO, Edwards worked mainly with people in Dodge County through Nehemiah Services. Eventually, people in other counties got wind of his organization and began coming to him as well.

"The organization is in the middle of nowhere and we do very low advertising. We have people from Rochester, Steele County, Mower County and even as far as Wabasha County. Every now and then I saw people from Fillmore County," he said.

Much of what attracted those from different counties to his organization had to do with his approaches in catering to the needs of those he services.

"We work around work hours and offer treatment during Sunday afternoons after 1 p.m. We also work with people on week nights," he related.

But then there are some services that are just for the family members.

Of course, there are a lot of other issues besides substance abuse in the world. Even in Fillmore County.

"My heart is for small counties," Edwards stated. "I was approached by social services and correction services about opening up an office in Fillmore County. I was not the only one they asked, but I'm not sure why they did not work out."

Still, Nehemiah Family Services will be opening a location in Fillmore County. For the past few weeks, Edwards has been working with the county commissioners for a license to work here. They are close to the final stages of being fully approved.

"The state has to walk through our facility and once they give the verbal okay, we should be set. Their deadline is at the end of this month to have us approved," he said.

Once he has the states' final approval, Edwards will be working out of the United Methodist Church in Preston for those who need Nehemiah Family Services.

"We checked out the church and the location and the church looked nice for our needs. We met with the pastor and the board. They thought it would be a good fit for their ministry as well," Edwards explained.

"The room we would use had plenty of space and the hours we would use it are not the hours they would use it," he continued.

At first, the local hours for treatment services be when actual groups are scheduled, probably on Sunday and Thursday. However, once the organization has become more familiar with the area and identified more needs within the county, like parenting and anger management counseling, Edwards and his two part-time staff may be able to be in Preston more often.

"We're excited to be down here and see what the county needs. We want to try to help the people meet those needs," he concluded.