The money from opioid settlements will go to rescue services across the country. Some Parkersburg, WV residents say this puts pressure on their small town.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
In 2020, most of the deaths were recorded from drug overdose. One thing that can save lives is sober apartment buildings that give people space and tools to begin a life of recovery, but these homes are not always welcomed by the community at large. June Leffler of West Virginia Public Broadcasting has more of a city that has seen an influx of addiction services and a resulting backlash.
JUNE LEFFLER, BYLINE: 45 year old Jimmy Braswell (ph) came to the city of Parkersburg, W.Va. to attend a recovery program. His probation officer dropped him off.
JIMMY BRASWELL: But that wasn’t my decision. My PO decided Parkersburg would be a better place for me, and I’m grateful for that.
LEFFLER: Braswell had been using drugs for 10 years and was imprisoned for it. He overdosed in Charleston earlier this year. Relocating Braswell 80 miles from everything he knew in Charleston was for the best.
BRASWELL: If I went back to the streets of Charleston, where there are these problems and the people I know, it just never would have worked.
LEFFLER: Braswell has lived in a sober apartment building called the Mid-Ohio Valley Fellowship Home since May. There he and more than 30 other men and women are on their way to recovery. Patrice Pooler heads the Fellowship Home.
PATRICE POOLER: And the cool thing is to see that this is completely reversed. They all just connect with each other and figure out how to stay sober.
LEFFLER: Braswell and the other customers are starting a 12-step program and are supposed to get a job in the city. Some are taking prescribed medication to control opioid cravings. You stay in the home for six months. But at what price? Asks Sharon Kuhl. She has lived in Parkersburg all her life and sits on the local council.
SHARON KUHL: In the beginning we needed a rehab center. Do we need eight? No.
LEFFLER: Kuhl says your city was flooded. There are at least 12 rest homes for 180 customers. Kuhl fears these homes will bring vulnerable people to Parkersburg who may have trouble getting back on their feet.
KUHL: If they come and decide after a day or two that they want to go, they’ll kick them out. They’re on the streets, nowhere if they’re not from here. Then they become homeless. Then they become Parkersburg’s problem.
LEFFLER: Homelessness is an issue in most of the towns in West Virginia, but there’s no way of telling how many people leaving nursing homes could be contributing. Kuhl’s fellow councilors shared their concerns. That summer, the City of Parkersburg banned the opening of a new home for at least a year. They hope that West Virginia lawmakers will enact more regulations soon. Pooler of the Fellowship Home says the moratorium perpetuates the stigma.
POOLER: There are still components of us against them instead of realizing that it is us. You know, it’s our sons and daughters.
LEFFLER: But Pooler supports regulation. The Fellowship Home completes its certification with the West Virginia Alliance of Recovery Residences. The organization outlines best practices that must be followed to keep the neighbors happy and protect the customers. Even if Parkersburg has more rest homes than it did a few years ago, recreation officers say there are still not enough. Steve Ball leads the men’s program at the Fellowship Home. He always has a waiting list.
STEVE BALL: You have so many people who want beds and I mean we literally have people standing outside our door asking for beds.
LEFFLER: Fellowship Home supports greater accountability in their industry, but that will take time. In the meantime, people who need care now may not be able to get it. For MediaFrolic News, I’m June Leffler in Parkersburg, W.Va.
(SOUNDBITE FROM RADIOHEAD’S “DAYDREAMING”)
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