Opioid abuse has proven to be a problem for the state of West Virginia, leading many people to search for a solution – for Jim Wilson, that search is personal.
“The Gatehouse is a project that has been underway for the last nineteen years,” Wilson said. “It has inspired me. I had gone through a program in Cincinnati, Ohio called the Prospect House in the late ‘80s that showed me beyond the shadow of a doubt that not only treatment works, but recovery works. It helped change my life in every way.”
Wilson is the 26th judicial circuit community corrections counselor and executive director of The Gatehouse, a project that will help improve the lives of men over the age of 18 who have suffered from opioid abuse.
Wilson said he doesn’t believe there is a county in West Virginia that doesn’t have a prescription drug problem, and he had to leave the state to seek help that worked.
“My desire was to have a program like that in West Virginia that people could actually get treatment here,” Wilson said. “The gift of it was you had time to recover. It wasn’t a quick twenty days in, and then out of the door. You had time to recover and build a foundation that you hope the rest of your life is walked out on.”
Karen Begg, a registered nurse and member of The Gatehouse board of directors, said she joined the board after witnessing the work done at the Prospect House in Cincinnati.
“When I watched the interactions between the counselors and the people that were there, it was something to be seen,” Begg said. “The men that were working with the people that had these addictions cared. It met the needs of people. Not only were they sheltered, fed, given what they needed, most important, they felt safe.”
Begg said during her medical career she has seen addiction destroy people.
“I have seen devastation to people who are addicted, whatever they are addicted to,” she said. “They just give up everything. They have a lot of loss in their life. They lose family and jobs to follow drugs. I’ve also seen addiction destroy the body and one’s health. The addiction not only affects you physically, mentally, emotionally, but spiritually, as well.”
According to the 2013 report, “Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic,” by Trust for America’s health, West Virginia is the leading state suffering from prescription drug overdose, reporting 28.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
Woodlands Development Group, a non-profit community housing developer based in Randolph County, has partnered with Straight Gate Inc., a private, non-profit corporation to create The Gatehouse.
A 12-step therapeutic approach is the philosophy behind The Gatehouse.
“It’s a long term residential treatment center, which in our opinion is lacking in this state,” said Peter Vial, senior pastor of Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church in Elkins, and board member of The Gatehouse project. “Everything in this state is short term.”
Construction is planned to begin this year and completed in 2016. Once finished, the facility will be located in downtown Elkins.
The house will permit residents to stay for 90 days total and will allow 35 men at a time to seek treatment. It will not accept opioid abusers who have suffered from mental illnesses.
Rebecca Vance, executive director of the family resource network in Randolph County said there is a need for a place like The Gatehouse in West Virginia.
“It is a huge need, statewide,” Vance said. “The thing that we’re running into whenever we look at prevention treatment and recovery is that people are having a hard time to get into treatment because there are not a lot of facilities. Then they go back to bad habits because it’s hard to break.”
Pocahontas County sheriff David Jonese said he thinks opening The Gatehouse would be beneficial for the county.
“Anytime we have a service to help people to deal with their addictions,” Jonese said. “We have tried many times. I think that’s a wonderful thing.”
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