In 1989, the first Recovery Month was recognized – then called Treatment Works! Month. In 1989, 5,035 people in the United States lost their lives to unintentional drug overdose. Nearly 30 years ago, it become evident that people needed to be informed about the tools available to help them reclaim their lives from the grips of addiction. And now, in 2017, it has never been more apparent just how far we still have to go: overdoses claimed the lives of 72,306 Americans last year. National Recovery Month has never been more relevant and efforts to make our communities healthier have never been more important.
Our state has been disproportionately impacted by this crisis, but Ohioans are tough, and they are rising to the challenge. Nowhere is that more evident than in Nelsonville, Ohio. Earlier this year, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections announced the closure of the Hocking Correctional Facility. During a recent tour of the facility, I was immensely impressed, once again, by the way Nelsonville and the surrounding communities rallied together, and created a solution that is not just a trade-in, but a trade-up.
In February, I was glad to bring together community leaders and local stakeholders to facilitate a conversation that was focused on the future and what this facility could mean for Southeast Ohio. In just six short months, nineteen local entities have truly risen to the challenge and created a plan that will not only mitigate the job-losses and economic side effects caused by the closure, but will fill a crucial need of the community: a wrap-around treatment center for those struggling for recovery.
The Appalachian Recovery Center Project will be a comprehensive center that tackles several issues affecting individuals battling addiction and, simultaneously, the region at large: the need for facilities to jail female misdemeanants and low-level felons, community diversion programs, mental health treatment, residential in-patient and non-intensive out-patient drug treatment, job training and education, and transitional housing services.
Perhaps what is most impressive about the Project is the expansive collaboration that is making it possible. Organizations like Hopewell Health Centers, Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery (STAR) Program, AHV 317 Board, Ohio Health, Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime (TASC) of Southeast Ohio, Ohio Health, and the Foundation for Appalachia are joining forces with Hocking College and Ohio University, as well as local services from Hocking, Athens, and Vinton County. Under the guidance of Hocking County Municipal Court Judge Fred Moses, each organization brings a new thread of perspective and expertise to the recovery process. Combined, this will create a blanket of services that can wrap around individuals and give them the best chance to reclaim their lives.
Beginning National Recovery Month with a tour of the former Correctional Facility and the future home of the Project was inspiring. It is abundantly clear that there is no one solution to this crisis, but when communities are able to unite and collaborate, they can help their neighbors through recovery. The Project has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach recovery not just for Appalachia, not just for Ohio, but for our entire nation. I am proud to serve as a resource for the courageous and committed community activists who are rising to the challenge.
If you would like to learn more about the Appalachian Recovery Center Project, please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-2015, my Hilliard office at (614) 771-4968, my Lancaster office at (740) 654-26545, or my Wilmington office at (937) 283-7049.