Featured Stories


Rehab center in St. Helens plans grand opening

Center to offer whole-person focused treatment


SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Executive directors and co-founders Tana Howtopat and Pam Daniel stand inside the office of their nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. The women wanted the decor of the office to feel inviting and warm, not sterile and clinical, they said.The Medicine Wheel Recovery Services, an outpatient drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center, will host a grand-opening ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday, March 11, at 58147 Columbia River Highway in St. Helens.

After a yearlong process of filing paperwork and establishing a business plan, Medicine Wheel Recovery Services will be the first of its kind in Columbia County. The nonprofit was co-founded by Pam Daniel, a Scappoose resident, and Tana Howtopat, of Portland. Both women have backgrounds in drug and alcohol rehabilitation counseling, but learning the administrative side of running the organization is new to both of them.

Howtopat and Daniel met at the start of their careers when they took alcohol and drug counseling certification classes together. Daniel has experience as an alcohol and drug counselor, and has worked with Community Action Team as a veterans services provider.Howtopat also worked as an alcohol and drug counselor, and served as the program director at the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest, another outpatient addiction services program.

Opening the rehabilitation center was all about providing people with different options to treat addictions, Howtopat said. Few addiction counseling options exist in St. Helens, and while Columbia Community Mental Health does offer similar outpatient addiction services, the two entities will serve different clients with different needs, Howtopat said.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Oliva Zielaskowski, a sophomore at St. Helens High School, paints a lightning bug onto a mural she designed for the office. Her mother, Emily Matthews, will work at Medicine Wheel Recovery Services when it opens. “We wanted to create choice for people in this county who need addiction services because, prior to us, that didn’t exist,” Howtopat said.

The programs Medicine Wheel Recovery Services will offer focus on a balanced, whole-person approach to recovery and sobriety, something the Native American medicine wheel symbolizes, Daniel explained. The medicine wheel represents finding balance in all areas of life, she said, and while addiction may be one aspect of someone’s life, it may be related to myriad other topics.

“The medicine wheel itself is balance. It’s balance in all the aspects of your life and that’s what we’re going to be working on with the individuals who come in here,” Daniel said.

The week before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Howtopat and Daniel were still setting up the center, having people paint murals and finish construction projects. They also worked on last-minute touches, like setting up furniture in common rooms.

Daniel and Howtopat both have adult daughters who will work part-time at the front desk, while Howtopat’s younger children have also been helping set up furniture and unpack boxes. The daughter of an administrative assistant at the office has been helping paint a pond mural in one room. Both women called the operation somewhat of a family affair. They hope that feeling is appreciated by the facility’s clients.

    Additionally, Howtopat said she hopes their services will be able to create a different dialog about addiction and how community members can reconnect during recovery.

“I think there’s attitudes, a lot of negative attitudes, in this county and probably everywhere about addictions and about people with addictions,” Howtopat said. “And so, we want to help redefine that definition, and that anger and that hatred that people have towards that.”

While the center hasn’t opened its doors yet, Howtopat said she has been in touch regularly with individuals who are interested in using its rehabilitation services.

Daniel said she hopes the services the center provides will help her give back. She said she is a recovering addict and was given many positive opportunities by community members who helped her move forward.

“People gave me opportunities and I took those opportunities, and that’s how I got here. And really, it’s about being here and providing that opportunity to others and giving right back to that same community,” Daniel said.