Are you willing?
There is a lot of talk about the drug abuse problem in this county and across the country.
A lot of talk, but unfortunately most of it is negative.
That may be about to change.
Jim Wilson, of Belington, a counselor for the 26th Judicial Circuit Community Corrections Program, may sum up the situation in the title of his article about drug and alcohol abuse and the need for community support:
“If nothing changes … nothing changes,” Wilson writes.
But for there to be change, folks on both sides of the equation must be willing to work for it.
The addict must be willing to seek help, and those in a position to provide that help must be willing to work toward that end.
That “end” requires community and governmental support in establishing treatment options.
But, even there, reluctance to get involved and negative thought patterns and comments threaten to undermine the forward momentum of a new day.
Wilson identifies three specific groups which are present in most communities: “…those in the community who recognize the need to address our substance abuse problem. They might be the ones who complain about the problem or read about another drug-related arrest or death in the paper and say things like, ‘Isn’t that a shame?’ or ‘Why isn’t anybody doing anything about this?’ while sitting idly by, doing nothing.”
The second group “is a portion of our citizenry who not only recognize the need to address the issue, but also want to bring attention to it, and address it - as long as it’s trouble-free and doesn’t require too much from them.”
Wilson refers to the third group as “circumstance-changers.”
“This small group recognizes the need to address the substance abuse problem,” Wilson writes. “They want to bring attention to it and address it, and finally – they are willing to take the action that real and effective change requires.”
Davina Agee, of Kinetic Connections in Marlinton, falls into that third category.
“We struggle to find help for people,” Agee said. “There is nothing around here. The judge orders treatment, but there is no place to get treatment.”
The Pocahontas County Commission heard from Agee at its January 3 meeting. They deferred a decision to fund a 12-bed, in-patient recovery house for Pocahontas County, wherein young women, especially young mothers with Child Protective Services issues, could get the help and support they need to begin to stitch their lives, and the lives of their families, back together.
Commissioners David Fleming and Dolan Irvine advised Agee to come before the commission again when it is disbursing discretionary funds and when the program has received 501c3 status from the Internal Revenue Service.
Agee’s proposed project, The Connection House, LLC, has a plan and a mission statement, and if determination counts for anything, it just might become a reality.
And that reality would be a gift not only to many young women, but to the community, as well.
Despite negative comments such as “You’re never going to get it,” and “You’re never going to fund it,” Agee said, “We are determined. We will get it.”
Agee and Missy Keatley work as partners at Kinetic Connections, and they are working as partners in planning The Connection House.
Agee’s and Keatley’s work through Kinetic Connections covers five counties – Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Summers, Monroe and Nicholas - and they have seen enough to know that the time has come to do things differently.
“We are sending people away to Beckley, to Charleston,” Keatley said. “They do well. But then they come back and fall back into trouble. They need to learn to recover and to live in their own community.”
Both agree that there are no easy solutions to the myriad of problems facing recovering addicts.
“A driver’s license, a car, a place to live, a diploma - those things are hard to come by,” Agee said. “Addiction is having a negative effect on industry here. We are working with a lot of second generation stuff – parents, as well as their parents. And the children suffer as much as the addicted parent does.”
There have been some successes, but Agee says the number of successes do not outnumber the failures.
She and Keatley look to the Rea of Hope project in Charleston as a model for what they hope to accomplish here in Pocahontas County.
Its website states: “The Mission of Rea of Hope is to provide safe, affordable housing for West Virginia women in a positive homelike environment that fosters recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction and promotes self-sufficiency.”
“They don’t take Medical cards there,” Agee said of Rea of Hope. “Clients must work and pay their own way. The job market here would not support that.”
But actively seeking employment would be a part of the requirements for participation in The Connection House program. In addition, the young women would learn life skills and structure, share meals and chores, improve their parenting skills and attend AA and or NA, and take other steps necessary to help in the psychological part of the recovery process.
“We want to encourage and empower these woman,” Agee said. “They are worth the fight.”
They are worth the fight because they have lost sight of their own self-worth, she added.
If The Connection House becomes a reality, participants in the program must go through an evaluation process and must be 30 days clean.
“We can’t afford to run a medical facility,” Agee said.
The facility will neither prescribe nor allow drugs on the premises.
Coinciding with the proposed treatment facility for women in this county, the Life Recovery Center workgroup led by Wilson, presented a proposal last week to the America’s Promise Coalition in Randolph County for The Gatehouse, the first-ever in West Virginia, long-term residential treatment center for men.
The 25-man treatment center, dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, would be fashioned after Prospect House in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Prospect House has been rehabbing addicts since the 1970s and studies show that it has a 68 percent success rate – a rate far exceeding that of most shorter term facilities. Prospect House requires a minimum 90-day commitment on the part of its clients, with an average length of stay of six months.
Wilson said there is treatment and recovery present in every county in the state, but most of that treatment is on an out-patient basis, with some 10 - to - 28 - day programs available.
The Gatehouse program would require a six-month commitment on the part of its clients, and would involve three phases in the recovery process, and would “offer the back-up care and support needed to help the men make it.”
The first step involves clinical care and counseling. In phase two, the client is required to write an outline as to what they want to do in order to transition into working within the community. In phase three, the client moves back into society, working, establishing a bank account and beginning to pay his own way, while continuing to live at the facility.
The work of The Gatehouse would parallel the words of Prospect House’s Charter: “To bring sobriety within reach and rekindle dignity and self-respect.”
A visit to the Prospect House website offers hope as to what The Gatehouse could mean for Randolph and the surrounding counties.
Director David Logan writes: “Our joy is to put our men back to work, or into college, and back into functioning families, as effective and honest husbands and fathers, men who can work, and men who can love and be loved. Men who can pay taxes, men who can vote.”
Through The Connection House, Agee and Keatley – along with several mentors – hope to restore the self-esteem and self-confidence of young women and young mothers – offering them a second chance through a new-to-this community approach to recovery.
“If nothing changes... nothing changes.”
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at jsgraham@poc ahontastimes.com