inFocus: Progress continues on Brooke’s House

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Two years ago, we met retired police officer Kevin simmers for the first time.

Only weeks after his daughter’s death, he shared her story of addiction, and now, he is bringing her dreams to life.

“If she knew there was this much support for her and so much support for addicts, it might have been different,” said Kevin Simmers, founder and president of Brooke’s House.

The story of Broke Simmers is one that many Washington County residents know all too well.

“We’ve been sitting out here, and this problem has kind of been snowballing, and where do you go to fix it,” asked Emily Keller, Hagerstown city councilwoman.

Brooke’s story is familiar to Keller, who lost her best friend, Ashley Wharton, to heroin last year.

“For me, I’m pretty well connected in the community, and I had trouble finding resources for her,” Keller said.

The common thread between both of their deaths was a debilitating disease without any treatment options.

“I think our generation is going to be judged very harshly from future generations on the way we handle addiction,” Simmers said.

“We need funding, which is always the hard part. I know, I’ve reached out to local legislators, and I’ve really gotten some good responses. I think right now, it’s really at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Keller said.

Months after his daughter’s death, Simmers set out to find a solution for the system that he says failed Brooke.

“My wife and I often talk; we feel like Jimmy Stewart in it’s a wonderful life the way that everyone has come together to support us,” Simmer said.

Brooke’s House will be an 8,000 square foot facility with eight bedrooms and 16 beds. The land was donated to Simmers by the Fulton family, so the girls could recover in the country with dignity.

A farm house on the property will also be turned into lodging for Brooke’s House counselors.

“There’s a lot of good things that’s happened, and it just hasn’t been mere coincidence. I kind of feel like she’s been working her magic for us a little bit,” Simmers said.

Keller agrees that the need for Brooke’s House is stronger than ever.

“We gave out more narcan last year than I believe any other place in Maryland with the exception of Baltimore City — Washington County did.”

Simmers knows this firsthand. He said he is constantly flooded with phone calls from girls desperate to get clean.

“When we do stories like this, we expect to have a spike in our donations, but really, it’s a spike in calls from girls who are seeking treatment,” Simmers said.

Brooke’s House is scheduled to open next winter, and while Simmers acknowledges that the loss of his daughter was excruciating, he’s thankful that her death will help save the lives of women for years to come.

“I spent 25 years as a police officer where it was my passion to arrest everyone using or selling, and it’s now my passion to help them recover,” Simmers said.

Officials with Brooke’s House have already raised $300-thousand dollars for the building.

They estimate that the house will cost $1 million to build, but thanks to the support of community members like architect Norm Morgan, that cost could be cut significantly. 

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