WILLIAMSON – At Thursday’s regular meeting of the Williamson City Council, city officials and residents expressed concern and considered the impact of a substance abuse rehabilitation facility proposed for the Sycamore Inn location.
The development of the facility has been proposed by the Mingo County Housing Authority (MCHA) and will be made possible through grant funding.
City officials and residents have been seemingly blindsided by the proposed facility. In an effort to increase communication and gather additional information, the city council voted unanimously to contact the MCHA and request that a representative attend the December 8 regular meeting of the Williamson City Council.
Many first became aware of the proposed facility at the last regular meeting of the Williamson City Council held October 27. At the meeting on October 27, Williamson resident and business owner, Charlie Hatfield, approached the council to express his concerns with the proposed facility. Hatfield explained that he felt that if the facility became a reality, further damage would be caused to Williamson’s already tarnished image, as well as result in a loss of revenue for the city in terms of hospitality tax and Business and Occupation tax and place an unneeded burden to law enforcement and other first responders.
At Thursday’s meeting, Hatfield again approached the council to discuss the issue. Hatfield stated that the MCHA had held a recent meeting that had failed to be publicized and was held at the MCHA location in Delbarton. “I have done 400 pages of reading on this stuff. When I came here two weeks ago, I was under the impression that it was only going to be a 60 bed facility but it is actually an 80 bed detox center, also a 60 bed peer based residential recovery center for both men and women. They named it Serenity Pointe and modeled it after the facility they have in Huntington called Recovery Point which is also modeled after one in Louisville Ky.,” Hatfield stated.
Hatfield also discussed the model for the recovery center which he obtained from the Recovery Point website, www.recoverypointwv.org.
The website states, “Recovery Point of West Virginia is a group of three peer-focused, long-term recovery programs for those who suffer from alcoholism and/or drug addiction. We are located across West Virginia and are comprised of Recovery Point of Huntington, Recovery Point of Charleston, and Four Seasons Recovery Center in Bluefield. Our Model is a replication of the one pioneered by The Healing Place of Louisville, KY, which has been successful for over 25 years. This model was used to create The Healing Place of Huntington, which is now known as Recovery Point of Huntington. Since opening our doors in 2011, over 150 men have graduated the long-term program at the Huntington location. Recent statistics reveal that over 68% of our graduates stay sober for the first year. The Recovery Point model is built on two principles: unconditional love and personal accountability. The heart of our program is a change of character achieved through working the twelve steps of recovery.”
The discussion continued with several other concerns being addressed by both residents and council, including a lack of doctors, nurses, counselors and other mental health support staff. “All this program requires is willingness. There are no doctor’s orders, no nurse supervision…”Hatfield said.
Williamson Mayor Robert Carlton voiced possible positives from having the facility in the area. “I see it in one way, as perhaps negative but in another way, perhaps positive as it may provide employment for some people and a lot of people in this area have children that are suffering. If they can help them, more power to them. It is going to have an effect on the city. We are thinking through that. If it is no longer a motel, we will be losing revenue but it may be replaced from elsewhere as far as doctors or whatever that open offices close by to attend to people.”
Councilwoman Sherri- Hairston Brown requested that Durand Warren, Clinical Director at Logan Mingo Mental Health, provide some insight and further information concerning the proposed rehab facility. “I have taken a tour of the facility that they are modeling this after. He is right. There is no supervision. It is peer to peer recovery. Each addict holds the other addict responsible. There is no professional counseling. The place that I went to in Huntington has their doors open. Take a tour of the facility. My advice to people is to go see it. If you have concerns, they are more than willing to open their doors to let you come in and sit down to what they do and how they do it. They are very open.”
Following further discussion, Councilman Matthew Newsome stated, “Durand, personally, how do you feel about that? We have children about the same age. How do you feel about having that with children in the community? I don’t mean to put you on the spot. I honestly value your personal opinion.”
Warren responded stating,” Professionally, I would have to say that as a clinical director, I cannot agree with anything that someone does as far as recovery and not receive therapy, not go through counseling, not have case management and not have those stop holds in place to actually propel them to success. I will not sit here and tell you that I will go along with peer to peer recovery and not have some sort of supervision. “
The final issue discussed was the size of the proposed facility. When complete, the proposed facility will have double the beds compared to local hospital Williamson Memorial. “That is a lot of beds for people not to be supervised,” Warren said. “That is not only my personal opinion but my professional opinion,” Warren continued.
Following discussion, the council voted to schedule a meeting with the MCHA to further discuss the facility at the next meeting of the Williamson City Council scheduled December 8. Check back with the Williamson Daily News in the following days and weeks for more information concerning this issue.
(Courtney Harrison is a news reporter at the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)