By Keith Davis
For Civitas Media
(Editor’s Note: This is the second of a 2-part series on Durand Warren and how he overcame tremendous obstacles and becoming a counselor.)
Durand Warren left the nursing office and went straight over to the academic representative for Lindsey Wilson College, also located on the SWVCTC campus. After explaining the situation, including his past history, the advisor verified that he could definitely begin the counseling program; however, due to his felony, he may never be able to get a counseling license in the state. The decision would be up to a handful of people sitting on the board at that future date in time. “Regardless of that risk, I knew I needed to step out on faith and place the rest in the Lord’s hands,” he recollected. “I somehow believed that the Lord would send someone my way—an individual who would at least catch a glimmer of the fact that I was trying to change.”
Warren started the rigorous program and did exceptionally well, eventually earning his Bachelor’s degree; this led to entering the graduate program—the Lindsey Wilson Masters-level School of Professional Counseling.
“Enrolling and completing my various academic endeavors would not have been possible without the ongoing support and prayers of my wife, Kelly,” he added. “When it was almost time for me to graduate with my Master’s Degree, representatives at Lindsey Wilson introduced me to John B. Mays, who was the clinical director at LMAMH at the time. I talked with him and began to share my story with him. Afterwards, John said, ‘Come and see me when you graduate; I’m going to give you a job.’”
After graduating in 2013, Warren went to the LMAMH Logan Center. As promised, Mays had held a position and a counseling office for him. He introduced him to the CEO at the time Bob Mays. Although it was no easy task convincing the CEO to hire a felon, John Mays vehemently went to bat for Warren, and he was soon hired.
“I am forever grateful to John Mays. God surely sent him into my life. I can’t begin to tell you the respect and appreciation I have for him—he fought tooth and nail to get me the position,” Warren stated. By the time he actually started his job, however, CEO Bob Mays had unexpectedly passed away and John Mays assumed the position of interim CEO. “He gave me an opportunity that most people would not have even considered.”
Warren recalled: “From the first time I came through the door, everyone on staff was receptive and reassuring. I have also been fortunate to have wonderful clients who have been accepting of me and my story,” he said, pointing out that he has never tried to cover up his past. “I immediately felt that I was fulfilling my purpose—counseling was what I was supposed to be doing. To now hold the position of LMAMH clinical director is such an honor, and it is very humbling for me, since it represents something very precious—something beyond a dream—being it is the same position at the same agency that John Mays properly held for so many wonderful years.”
Since coming on board at LMAMH in 2014, current CEO Donna J. Cooke has also been very supportive of Warren, as she immediately recognized his skills, gifts, and dedication; and according to him, her encouragement has been invaluable, impacting his life and career. Even after graduating and completing the two-year on-the-job counseling requirements, Warren still realized that licensure through the West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling would be a long shot, due to his felony conviction. To his amazement, Cooke decided to become directly involved, assuming the role of advocate, communicating with the state board and aggressively fighting on his behalf. She passionately shared the importance of his story with the examining board, while pointing out his meritorious record on the job as a clinical therapist at LMAMH. A decision was made earlier this year, and Warren was awarded his state licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)—which he credits largely to Ms. Cooke’s effective persuasion.
Warren also appreciates Cooke for her valuable academic and career advice: “I shared my dream of continuing to advance in my career, and we had a long discussion about the possibility of furthering my education; I was wondering whether I should be thinking about pursuing a doctorate. Without hesitation, Ms. Cooke immediately recommended that I go for my MBA instead.” Since he deeply respected her opinion, Warren investigated and discovered that the University of Pikeville had an excellent MBA program. He enrolled shortly the conversation, and on Saturday, May 14, 2016, he earned his second Master’s degree—a Master of Business Administration.
“I am proud of what Durand has accomplished in his life thus far,” Ms. Cooke said. “Also, I know he now has a special burden—a heartfelt passion—for those suffering from addictions. He will be a great asset to LMAMH as the clinical director; and I am convinced he will continue to be a great benefit to the consumers and communities we serve in upcoming years.”
“When I was in prison, I had a lot of time to think; and I often questioned myself and even God as to why I ended up there,” Durand recalled. “Of course, I knew I was responsible for the shambles I made of my life, due to the illegal drug activity; but it took years for me to finally recognize how God’s hand was on my life,” he said.
Currently, there are about 20 million people who have felony convictions in America—approximately one in 12 adult Americans. A large number of would-be felonies are plead down to misdemeanors, so the actual total number of individuals caught committing felonious acts are unquestionably higher than these statistics portray. According to one source, if no criminals took a plea deal, and all felonies were prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, the entire US criminal justice system would implode within a year.
On Mon., May 2, Durand was given the rare opportunity to meet with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton at a special roundtable discussion held in Williamson, where he talked about many of the challenges being faced by citizens in the region—including the growing drug epidemic, health care issues, and the ailing economy of southern West Virginia.
“I am now convinced that the hard times I suffered as a result of my bad choices were preparing me by helping me better understand a population that I would one day be serving as a counselor—even the ongoing hurdles and setbacks after serving my time and reentering society. I can truly empathize with their pain,” Durand added. “My hope is to be an inspiration for others who need to know there is hope—to show them that they can channel their lives into something positive. I believe the Lord has guided every step for me; and He has placed great people in my life—a wonderful support system. I thank God for answered prayers.”