New treatment facility in Wasilla turns a mother’s heartbreak into hope

Dylan’s Place is named after Karen Malcolm-Smith’s son who died of a drug overdose in 2017
After watching her son lose his battle with addiction, Karen Malcolm-Smith didn’t want another family to have to go through the same thing
Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 7:29 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - The ribbon was cut for a new facility in Wasilla on Friday to mark the start of a new chapter in addiction services in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

The event drew in a large crowd of community members focused on helping individuals struggling with mental health and substance use.

Inside the facility, the halls are decorated with messages of faith and hope — messages that resonate with Karen Malcolm-Smith, who lost her son to an overdose in 2017.

“It’s a combination I think, of joy and sorrow,” Malcolm-Smith said.

Her son’s name is Dylan David Fuhs, and the facility is called Dylan’s Place. After watching him lose his battle with addiction, Malcolm-Smith didn’t want another family to have to go through the same thing. Malcolm-Smith used the sale of her son’s house to create a home for others.

“My ultimate goal was to sell Dylan’s house and to pray that somebody opened a detox center — a management withdrawal — that was in alignment with my thinking, and my heart, and my son’s,” Malcolm-Smith stated, trying to hold back her tears.

The treatment center is not like ordinary medical facilities. The facility is a two-story building made to feel like a house with a cozy living room, eating area, and a long upstairs hallway divided up into separate bedrooms with two to three twin-sized beds in each.

While the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday, Dylan’s Place is still a couple more weeks out from being operational and the withdrawal management program is tentatively planned to launch on Nov. 28.

It operates under the umbrella of True North Recovery, which partnered with Malcolm-Smith to bring the treatment center to fruition. True North Recovery Founder Karl Solderstrom said the center operates as a walk-in behavioral health and urgent care facility.

“You can get assessments, you can get withdrawal management or detox services, you can get peer support,” Solderstrom said. “We’re just here to help you navigate the next steps in your life.”

Solderstrom started True North Recovery in 2016 after battling his own struggles with addiction. He’s been in recovery since April of 2013 and now calls himself a brother to those still struggling.

“I wanted to stop burying my friends,” Solderstrom stated. “So we started screaming from the rooftops, that we got well and you can too.”

After Dylan’s passing, Malcolm-Smith made the decision to post a transparent obituary in a local newspaper, wanting to shed light on his story to bring awareness to the national epidemic that’s currently plaguing many Alaskans. In 2017, resources such as Narcan were not as easily accessible as they are today.

Opening Dylan’s Place was an important step in Malcolm-Smith’s own recovery.

“After Dylan died there was only about maybe 1% of me left and so I felt like I had to make a difference, I had to be his voice,” she said, finally letting go of the tears she had been fighting. “It was healing for me and it honored my son and that’s what propelled me. I could keep doing something every day for my son and feel like he was really alive in my heart, and he is.”

A picture of Dylan petting his Rottweiler Nas hangs on the main wall of the living room. A decal of the Dylan’s Place logo sits to the left of it, surrounded by a quote Dylan had tattooed on his body: ‘Every Saint Has a Past, Every Sinner Has a Future.’

“We cannot forget the ones that we already lost,” Solderstrom stated. “We’re going to stand up and scream from the rooftops and build whatever we can build to help the next person so that another family doesn’t have to go through what Karen went through.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, help is available. Resources can be found by calling Alaska 211 or visiting the State of Alaska’s website to find treatment options.