Two Pocahontas County social workers, Davina Agee and Melissa Keatley, plan to open a residential addiction rehabilitation facility for women on Beard Heights. The facility will be known as The Connection House and will be the first of its kind in Pocahontas and surrounding counties.
Agee, a licensed social worker, describes her objective.
“We’re trying to provide a place for people to recover from addiction,” she said. “We started thinking about this a year-and-a-half ago, when we had a lot of clients we were working with, who were having to go to rehab and treatment, and having to go to Beckley and Charleston and Parkersburg and Logan County and Braxton County and places that are so far away from their children, it was making it difficult for them to maintain contact with their kids and family. We thought we could do something to bring it closer to home.”
Agee said sending women far away from home for rehab is an unsuccessful strategy.
“It seems like we were setting them up for failure,” she said. “They were going to live in Charleston or somewhere else for rehab, and then when they came back here to their real life, they had no support system set up, they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t have a job and so, they went back to having the same issues they had before. So we started thinking about how we could put something in Pocahontas County, where we could help people right here.”
Agee and Keatley have worked extensively with families with addiction problems.
“We’ve seen first-hand what addiction can do to families,” Agee said. “It seems like 90 percent of our caseload that we work with, the families that we have, have addiction in the family or have an issue that is rooted in addiction. It’s tiresome to work with the same thing and not have the resources to help people.”
Keatley said prescription drug abuse is the county’s worst drug addiction problem.
“The biggest problem we see, that we work with, is prescription drug abuse,” she said. “But we have a little bit of everything in Pocahontas County, including cocaine and methamphetamine. But I think it’s mostly painkillers and prescription nerve medication, because it’s easier to get.”
Mothers with children will have priority at the new facility.
“Our target audience is mothers,” said Agee. “It seems like those are the people you need to get to the most and the quickest, because their addiction is affecting their entire family. A lot of times, in these cases, children get taken away from their parents and parents are told they must complete some kind of a program to get clean or they won’t get their kids back. They are on the time clock and they don’t have anywhere to go. There’s waiting lists for programs all over the place. Those are the people, from here in Pocahontas County, that we want to serve first.
“We’ll take people from other places if they want to come. Anyone who wants to come, we’re not going to turn them away.”
Randy Housh, with Seneca Health Services, is a member of The Connection House board of directors. Housh, who has decades of experience working with recovering addicts, recently gave a briefing at the Marlinton Municipal Building on the proposed facility.
“Hands-on, residential support to clients in the initial days, weeks and months of recovery is crucial to lasting recovery and relapse prevention,” he said.
The expert said long-term residential treatment is the key to successful addiction recovery, because a majority of people who complete short-term detox programs are not able to remain sober once they return to the community. In order to change their lives, Roush said, addicts must leave behind the influences that had promoted their substance abuse.
Numerous community organizations and officials have provided letters of support for The Connection House, including Judge James Rowe, Judge Joseph Pomponio, Prosecuting Attorney Eugene Simmons, Court-Appointed Special Advocates, the Day Report Center, EMS Director Shawn Dunbrack, the Family Refuge Center, the Child and Youth Advocacy Center and the Public Defender’s Office.
Chief Deputy Major David Walton of the Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Department and State Police Senior Trooper J.W. Gilkeson are members of The Connection House board of directors.
Agee and Keatley currently work out of the building they want to become The Connection House. It’s the former office building of Dr. Sarita Bennett in Beard Heights. The building has been remodeled nicely to include five small bedrooms, a living room, kitchen/dining room, conference room and offices. The business partners are in the process of forming a non-profit organization for The Connection House. Once they obtain non-profit status, they can start seeking grant money to get the facility operational.
Until then, Agee and Keatley will host Narcotics Anonymous meetings at the Beard Heights facility. The meetings will be held every Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. Anyone struggling with past or present narcotics addiction is welcome to attend.
The Connection House welcomes donations of money, clothing, food and furnishings. Volunteers interested in helping with the project are encouraged to call. For more information, call Davina Agee at 304-799-4343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.