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Funding provided for new regional recovery center

The continuum of care from substance abuse treatment to job stability is where the Appalachian Regional Commission has lobbed funding for Southeast Ohio this week.

ARC Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas announced Wednesday a $1.1 million grant to fund the Appalachian Recovery Project, formerly the Hocking Correctional Facility repurposing project.

The facility was an Ohio state prison located in Ward Township, Hocking County, just north of Nelsonville. The facility opened in 1982 and closed last year.

Now plans are moving forward to renovate the facility so that women from surrounding counties, including Washington, may be treated for substance abuse and addiction in the facility.

Buckeye Hills Development Director Bret Allphin explained that the investment of ARC funds connects the dots between economic instability in Appalachian counties and substance abuse–Buckeye Hills is the regional council which administers and distributes federal and state Appalachian funding in Southeast Ohio.

“The ARC has a new federal co-chair, and he’s from Kentucky, so he is fully aware of what the opioid crisis has done in our area, especially in places where coal was the primary income before,” said Allphin. “He’s really focused on where that economics issue intersects with the resulting substance abuse issue in the loss of jobs. The money that’s been allocated is part of the POWER programming which formerly just focused on job development but now is refocusing some of that effort after research on diseases of despair.”

The Appalachian Recovery Project, he said, has been in discussion for more than a year and addresses a vital issue echoed often in forums and offices across the region.

“I’ve been working with local law enforcement agencies and county commissioners for years and often hear about the expenses they incur when trying to house female offenders of all types,” said Allphin. “I know it’s been a longstanding issue in general, so logic says in substance abuse recovery that we need a facility of this size locally for women to be safe and get back on their feet along with the job training paired with it.”

Flite Freimann, Washington County’s director of Job and Family Services, said he was thrilled to hear the announcement Thursday of the renovations of the former prison into a women’s treatment center.

“That is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It’s something this region is desperately in need of and the need is with a place for women where whether it’s coming out of an abusive relationship or fighting substance abuse they arrive with basically nothing. Having a place to get stabilized, get you into a healthy environment with role models further along in recovery than you then you can actually take the tools your given to be successful.”

Freimann, who is serving on the county’s opioid hub team to connect employers with individuals completing addiction treatment, said offering workforce development as a part of the treatment continuum of care is vital.

“Where are you going to stay, wash your clothes and feed yourself before that first paycheck?” he said. “This money gives these folks a safe place to stay and achieve the goal of standing back up on their feet.”

He said Washington County officials will next need to commit to added services like peer recovery support specialists and case management to help Washington County residents reenter society after treatment in Nelsonville.

“When you graduate from that program and have your job training and are coming back to Marietta, how do we make sure you have the resources you need,” he said. “We’re going to need here more transitional and sober housing as well.”

According to the ARC, the project will be led by Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions. The project will create 31 jobs, serve 300 patients, and place 27 community health worker trainees in permanent positions. Additionally, the ARC projects that 95 clients will complete workforce or vocational programming during or after their residential treatment.

At a glance:

• The Appalachian Regional Commission announced a $1,100,000 grant to Ohio University in Athens for the Appalachian Recovery Project: An Ohio Opioid Workforce Initiative.

• The project repurposes the former Hocking Correctional Facility outside of Nelsonville into a residential treatment center post-incarceration and for those enrolled in a drug court program as well as an addiction treatment services and primary care center for women involved with the justice system.

• The program will also provide workforce development services for residents.

• The project will create 31 jobs, serve 300 patients and place 27 community health worker trainees in permanent positions.

• The project is projected to help 95 of its clients with workforce or vocational programming during or after their residential treatment.

Source: Appalachian Regional Commission.

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