Employee Spotlight – Lafitte Banville
Lafitte Banville serves Heartland House in multiple, valuable roles. He is a credentialed SUD (Substance Use Disorder) Counselor to the House’s clients, and additionally holds the title of Program/Operations Manager. In that capacity, Lafitte oversees the orderly functioning of the program support and building maintenance activities at Heartland House and assists other staff members to provide group sessions, one-on-one counseling sessions, recovery planning, and documentation of recovery plan progress. He also provides key administrative support to Executive Director, Robert Cook, on a daily basis.
Lafitte first became aware of Heartland House in 2009, when he became one of its clients. As he puts it, he had forgotten how to live responsibly, but Lafitte is proud to say that in his seven months at Heartland House he learned vital life lessons: “I learned about honesty and not being afraid to make mistakes. And, the [Heartland House]program taught me how to teach myself.”
Lafitte’s thirst for knowledge and commitment to recovery caught the attention of the then-administrator of Heartland House, who offered him the opportunity to work there as a weekend staff member. Lafitte concurrently attended school and worked at Heartland House, and ultimately interned there as part of his State of California certification program as a Substance Use Disorder Certified Counselor (SUDCC). Lafitte’s education, coupled with his in-depth knowledge of the workings of Heartland House as a client and employee, makes him a highly knowledgeable and insightful member of the House’s staff.
When asked how Heartland House has evolved during his time there, Lafitte said that recovery at Heartland House has expanded its focus from a classical approach to that of whole-person care as spelled out by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). As he grew more and more familiar with this holistic method of addiction treatment, Lafitte became a strong proponent of the ASAM criteria. For more information about ASAM, please see the ASAM article in this edition..
Lafitte’s enthusiasm for Heartland House is readily apparent when he talks about the physical improvements to its facilities that have taken place during his tenure. These include the addition of office space that supports an expanded staff and provides rooms for private meetings with current and prospective residents and their families, and the enclosing of the Heartland House patio to give better weather shelter and privacy for the multitude of group meetings that are held there. And throughout the COVID pandemic, the patio supports socially distanced family visits for residents.
Prior to the pandemic, Lafitte led a favorite activity: Before being transported to outside 12 Step mutual support group meetings, Heartland House residents were given a set of three questions to ask someone in attendance at the meeting. The resident was asked to jot down the responses and later to write their thoughts about the responses. The resident would in turn share their results at an upcoming group meeting at the House. Lafitte hopes that this practice can be reinstated soon, as it created the opportunity for very rich conversations.
Lafitte believes that the pandemic has spurred Heartland House men to form stronger relationships due to the increased time together at the house. He is also grateful for the advent of Zoom meetings and the recently donated notebook computers that make 12-Step recovery highly accessible to Heartland House residents.
Lafitte does have one warning for prospective clients: You WILL gain weight there, if you are not careful, because the food is GREAT!
If you ever visit Heartland House, you will find Lafitte counseling men, assisting the County Probation Department in locating help for a man being released from custody, working to enhance his professional knowledge, handling a multitude of phone calls, and even providing computer technical assistance to other staff and residents. Lafitte’s expertise, versatility, and calm demeanor are assets that help to make Heartland House successful. Thank you, Lafitte, for all that you do!