By A.J. Kaufman
Projects with a large bearing on workforce development and direct employment are underway in Southwest Virginia.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in mid-April for a new residential treatment center to help women battling opioid addiction.
The Mended Women Lifestyle Recovery center — the first of its kind in the region — is designed toward providing post-detox and early recovery services for women across 13 counties and three cities in Southwest Virginia. The center will provide clinically managed, low-intensity residential substance abuse programming, as defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
The two-story facility will have the capacity to expand to 65 beds and will employ 35-40 people when fully staffed. Most women at the center will be housed for 60 to 90 days, depending on their needs, Appalachian Substance Abuse Coalition for Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Director Linda Austin told the media.
There are no similar women’s facilities within 150 miles.
“Not only is there a great need in the region, but more importantly, there is a great desire and commitment to being part of the solution that improves outcomes for individuals, families, and whole communities. That is what this new center is about…” State Sen. Todd Pillion explained to the Business Journal. “Our goal is for folks, regardless of what program they go through or where they are, to receive the care and support they need to empower them to regain control of their lives. As a Commonwealth, we want and need everyone to thrive so that our communities, economy, and workforce are as strong as they can possibly be.”
Scheduled to open in early June, it became the first Virginia entity to receive grant funding from the Authority, which announced the center would receive a settlement grant of nearly $116,000.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares attended the ceremony and said the center could be a model for the rest of Virginia and is the type of program that drug settlement monies are intended to support.
Over the next 18 years, about $1 billion is expected to come to the commonwealth, with the Authority expected to oversee about $550 million from settlements related to opioid manufacturing, marketing and sales.
The Authority was created by the General Assembly in 2021 to administer the Opioid Abatement Fund, which receives money from settlements related to claims regarding the manufacturing, marketing, distribution or sale of opioids.
“The center will be a vital piece of the puzzle for women seeking to extract themselves from the vicious cycle of drug addiction. Many communities around the nation have addiction issues, particularly opioid issues, and our region is choosing to offer a positive pathway forward for those who want a better life,” Delegate Israel O’Quinn said. “I’m very appreciative of everyone who has played a part in making the center a reality. I look forward to hearing the incredible stories of lives that have been restored.”
The project is a collaboration between Washington County and Fairview Housing Management Corp., a nonprofit that provides residential substance use treatment and recovery housing in Virginia and Tennessee.
Fairview President Bob Garrett said stakeholders in the treatment center have been working to establish the center since late 2021 and the project has raised $728,000 in public and private funds thus far.
A written statement explained that the center’s goals, in part, include reducing overdoses from substance abuse, preventing overdose fatalities, lowering the number of children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and significantly lowering the unmitigated impact of prevalent substance abuse in Southwest Virginia.
Wildwood Recovery Center, which aims to host its grand opening in September, will be Southwest Virginia’s first comprehensive residential treatment facility. It will offer simultaneous treatment of nearly 100 individuals, utilizing two 7,000-square foot administrative buildings and a half-dozen large dormitories. Funding came earlier this year from the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority, which has approved a $2 million loan from the Economic Development Loan Fund.
While noting the positive impact for those struggling with addiction, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick also believes the new endeavor will jumpstart Southwest’s economy.
“This newfound resource will heal families and create dozens of new jobs,” she said in a press release. “Projects like this one truly support the heart of our mission and aspirations for Virginia communities.”
Also this spring, Frontier Health opened its new high-intensity behavioral health facility in Norton, Va. It aims to provide care for individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.
The location will additionally serve as the regional Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center drop-off site for law enforcement transferring custody of those needing emergency evaluations or additional services. The facility, which also provides a mental health intensive outpatient program for people returning to the community from inpatient treatment facilities, can be accessed any time.
Something is working across the Commonwealth. In late April, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced that more than 4.5 million people are currently in Virginia’s labor force— the most since recording began nearly a half-century ago.