Today marks the one year anniversary of former PHS student Dakota Stout’s death. The 2011 graduate passed away of a heroin/fentanyl overdose in Nashville, Tennessee while on the road as a truck driver.
Stout was more than a man who had made a headline or two in 2018. He was an FFA member and an artist. He had said that if he could have any superpower, it would be to “touch things and turn them into GOOOOOOLD!” when asked for Hillcrest’s 2011 yearbook.
Stout did not go unnoticed throughout his years at PHS. Some of our current PHS staff members remember Stout being very quiet and to himself. U.S. History teacher Chris Lindley describes him as being an introverted kid. Stout was also described by art teacher Chris Jones as a kind, real, loyal and dependable person and someone who never caused anyone any issues.
“He never quit, he always worked hard and I was proud of him because he never gave up. Dakota was just a really nice kid, and we got along great. It pains me that this has happened to him and his family because he was a good guy with a lot of potential,” said Jones.
Although Stout’s death could have been prevented with the right resources, his story sparked something even bigger. Safe Haven Recovery Engagement Center is a place for addicts and recovering addicts to seek help if they are struggling.
“Once Dakota died, I started meeting all these people in recovery. I started doing research about addiction, treatment and recovery, and I found that if we wanted to prevent more deaths, we had to start in our own community and we had to start with something that was feasible,” said Brittany Stout, Dakota’s sister and one of the many contributors to Safe Haven.
Safe Haven’s missions are as follows:
- To have a centralized location to offer and start up recovery meetings, aiming for at least one per day available.
- To offer access and transportation to treatment for alcoholics/addicts that are ready to start their recovery journey.
- To offer a “Safe Haven” for those in early or even established recovery that need a place that they know is safe and everybody there is in recovery and sober and can come and access resources, literature, other recovering addicts and hope.
On Safe Haven’s Facebook page, the phrase “From Tragedy to Hope” is placed in all caps in their “About” section. The idea for this recovery center was derived from a similar program in Indianapolis, which a board member of Safe Haven had come across. Most importantly, Dakota’s death was the push to start up this program so others in need of help could receive it.
“This person had a place like Safe Haven that he went to early in recovery, and while hearing him talk about it, all I could think was ‘Dakota would have done so much better with something like this available to him.’ Dakota’s passing was quite a catalyst for the entire community to be more open and aware of addiction,” said Brittany.
According to Brittany, Safe Haven is a “clearinghouse of resources for those wanting to start recovery, are already in recovery, for community members wanting more education and for family members” as well as a place which offers housing, transportation, food and employment.
After close to a year of planning and organizing, tonight will be Safe Haven’s grand opening. The event starts at 6 p.m. and will last until 9 p.m., and it will be located at 308 South Oak Street, Paoli, IN 47454. People will be able to learn about Safe Haven’s services offered both to people suffering as well as their families and learn about ways to volunteer or get involved. A dedication service for Dakota will be at 6:30 p.m. For more information about Safe Haven, visit SafeHavenRec.com and be sure to look up their hashtag, #EndTheStigma, on Facebook.
Dakota’s legacy will live on through Safe Haven. Brittany hopes people are able to find strength and comfort along their journeys.
Story by Sara Kesterson