Marlinton native Reta Griffith has held many titles – Pocahontas County Commissioner, director of operations at Frontier Communications, and Family Refuge Center executive director – but her most recent title, director of Pocahontas County Day Report Center, brought her back to her home community to help local residents improve their lives.
The Day Report Center is a place for offenders to rehabilitate and learn how to overcome addiction and poor decision making in order to better themselves and turn over a new leaf.
When Griffith first took the job, she realized there was a flaw she wanted to fix – the center was repeatedly seeing the same people, which didn’t seem like much of a success to her.
“You can’t keep seeing the same people over and over again and calling that success, so we had to start thinking, ‘what are we missing here?’” she said. “What we started doing at that point was realize we’ve got to build a supportive community for people that are in recovery because a lot of these – say ninety-five percent of the folks we’re seeing, at least – have some type of substance misuse disorder.”
At the center, individuals receive regular drug screenings, but are also offered classes to help them turn their destructive behavior into positive behavior. They also participate in supervised community service projects, which gets them more involved in the community they want to be a part of once they complete the program.
“All of those classes are evidence-based,” Griffith said. “They involve role playing, critical thinking and self reflection. There’s journaling, writing about different things that you’ve got to really sit and think about ‘why did I make these choices.’ There’s a lot of self reflection that goes along with it.”
Griffith took the job as director in August 2020, and since then, she’s been focused on building connections in the community for the individuals to make sure that, when they decide to change their lives for the better, they are able to stick to it and not become repeat offenders.
“Here was an opportunity to be back and involved with community, and it was an opportunity to be back in my home community,” she said. “I wanted to come home, and I wanted to make a difference here again. So what I’ve really spent the last year doing is building these connections. We have all these referral agencies and they were already partnering with MindEase and Seneca [Mental Health Services] and a couple other programs, but now we’re really involved with Seneca. It’s one of our larger groups.”
One of the most important lessons the center imparts to its clients is how to deal with returning to the same peer groups once they are drug and/or alcohol free.
“Our instructors try to put it in real-world situations and do a lot of role playing and talking it through,” Griffith said. “So it’s real life situations you might encounter every day. You’re going to a party and somebody offers you such and such. How do you get out of that? How do you deal with the stigma? How do you deal with the peer pressure? We literally walk through different ways of doing it.
“We’re trying to reinstall self esteem,” she continued. “People didn’t get into some of these messes overnight. They got into them over time, and so we’re trying to be supportive. The biggest thing is just to listen to people in recovery and who are going through recovery.”
Similar to how they didn’t get into their current situation overnight, they also don’t get out of it overnight. It is a long process, which can include rehab, detox and even relapses.
“We’re case management, and we are community supervision, and we recognize that there are going to be times that you mess up, so you come in here, you be honest with us, you work with us and let’s find out what next step you can do to keep you from getting into worse trouble than you’re already in,” Griffith said.
“We become that support group,” she continued. “That’s the way we treat it. We treat it like family. We treat it like community, and we try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Does that mean everyone is successful? No. They’re not, but the ones who want to be and the ones that want that hand up, we try to be there and we try to provide that. That’s the way we’ve been running our center.”
The center helps clients get control of their lives. If they need housing or a job or a new job, the center will be there to help them fulfill those needs. It also helps clients get their GED, get SNAP benefits and learn how to have a substance free social life.
On top of all of the programs and assistance, Griffith said they try to add as much fun and community involvement as possible. The recent Christmas parade in Marlinton was a great time for the center’s clients to have a little fun together and learn a few valuable lessons.
They teamed with Seneca Mental Health Center to create a parade float, which led them to a first place win in the parade.
“Putting the float together – they went through all the aches and pains of doing a community project – fighting back and forth, difference of opinion,” Griffith said. “You went through all of those in a small time frame and I’m like, ‘welcome to the world of community – this is what we all do every day on a bigger scale.’
“Yeah, it was just a parade float, but there were so many lessons that came through there about working with each other and working with community,” she continued. “One of the people came up to me later and told me they had never had the opportunity to be on a winning team. I’ve never thought about that because I had opportunities to succeed at things and do different stuff, but some of these folks have never had that kind of family support.”
Griffith said she is happy to see the progress that has been made and plans to continue to make connections for individuals who want to make a change in their lives.
“When you come in here, everybody is on equal footing,” she said. “Everybody’s got the same chance to say ‘this is where I am’ and we start evaluating. We say, ‘you have the opportunity to change what people think of you and that’s up to you every day.’
“You can choose every day to make people think differently about you, and I say, ‘today, it starts,”’ she continued. “We’re not going to succeed every day. You’re not going to like us every day. We’re not going to like you every day, but we’re real with each other.”