National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 31st year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery. Today, we reflect on the accomplishments in our region and the opportunities for the future.
Amidst the national opioid and substance use disorder crisis, Huntington, WV, often made headlines for the many challenges its community faced, including some of the highest overdose rates in the U.S. Today, Huntington is making headlines again – but this time for its successful progress and pioneering recovery programs. Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader shared the news and process of her community's initiatives with the PACF. Rader's passion and commitment to helping those in the Huntington area – including individuals with substance use disorder and the first responders who care for them in crisis – inspired the PACF, and our community, to action.
"Huntington's example of leadership and innovation motivated the PACF to consider what role we could play in bringing our community together to address this issue in the Mid-Ohio Valley region," said PACF Board Chair Cynthia Brown. "We are partnering with other local foundations and organizations to explore the ways in which we can all work together to offer leadership and resources to collectively address our concerns. The PACF also created the Fund for Recovery from which grants can be made to support programs that encourage prevention, support treatment and foster re-entry to society. This Fund also delivers resources to help meet the needs of persons such as children or grandparents whose lives have been affected by the substance use of family members."
The PACF has devoted a variety of resources to address this issue, including a $5,000 grant to the Fourth Circuit Public Defender Corporation to provide safe, effective transportation to clients with substance use disorder to enable them to seek treatment.
"I had no will, no ride, and no family or friends who were willing to help." said one client. "Thanks to the Fourth Circuit Public Defender Corporation, I was able to get a bed in treatment and was transported to and completed a six-month treatment program. I graduated from the program and am now back in the community doing well."
In addition, a $12,750 PACF grant to the Mid-Ohio Valley Drug Court supplied dentures for drug court graduates made possible by a number of charitable funds of the Foundation.
"Poor dental health is an unfortunate side effect of drug use. It is exceptionally difficult to find work with a felony. Imagine adding to that the challenge of finding employment with rotten or missing teeth," said Kat Boggs, Drug Court Probation Officer. "While we can give drug court participants all the tools to remain clean and sober for a lifetime, we do not have the funds to erase the physical cost of their substance use disorder. Those we have been able to aid in obtaining dentures have had amazing transformations, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. The increase in their self-esteem is priceless."
One recipient expressed his gratitude for his new dentures, "It was the best thing that has ever happened to me," he said. "It feels good to be able to smile with how I'm living my life today! True happiness!"
The PACF has taken an active role to address the region's substance use disorder by convening community organizations, joining with other partners to learn more about services currently offered locally and gaps to be addressed, and creating the Fund for Recovery - a flexible grantmaking fund of the Foundation which helps persons and families in crisis and combats substance use disorder. In addition, the Foundation helped form the Substance Use Disorder Collaborative, an action-oriented collaborative focused on reducing the stigma and adverse effects associated with substance use disorder for individuals and families in the Mid-Ohio Valley and its surrounding communities.
"Our community is mobilizing," said Cynthia Brown, "and we are committed to helping provide the leadership needed to bring everyone to the table to find new solutions to these critical issues here at home."