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Ex-football coaches draw support for Healing Place

Nov. 02, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Supporting and expanding an effective local resource for recovering addicts was the goal behind the "Embrace Hope: Champions for Recovery" event at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Friday evening.

Former Marshall football coach Bobby Pruett and former West Virginia University football coach Don Nehlen joined together to draw a crowd of hundreds to the arena in support of The Healing Place, a rehabilitation center for men based in Huntington.

"This is something that's very special because it touches us all," Pruett said. "(The Healing Place) is such a tremendous benefit to the city of Huntington and the citizens, it was a no-brainer to be a part of this. This is home and we have to start here and try to help and do the best for our community."

"I'm a Morgantown guy," Nehlen added. "But I'm happy I was here because this is a special night. I am overwhelmed with The Healing Place and this evening. My hat's off to Huntington."

Former WVU standout and Los Angeles Rams player Robert Alexander was the keynote speaker at the event where he spoke about his own 15-year battle with addiction that started at WVU around the time his father passed away.

"Only by the grace of God am I standing here tonight," he said. "I wouldn't give to my worst enemy what I went through."

He said he was involved in 20 treatment programs before he was "rescued" by a treatment facility near Morgantown. When that happened around age 34, he was able to finish his degree and get his family back.

"It's an everyday fight," he said. "You can never let your guard down."

Organizers said they hoped to raise up to $50,000 to help support growth at The Healing Place, which is funded solely through grant money and private donations.

With grant money decreasing, the need for private donations has increased, especially since the organization hopes to open a new women's facility in the near future.

"We are looking to acquire property for the women's facility now," said Rebecca Stanley, director of development at The Healing Place. "We are under expansion (at the current facility), adding 54 beds to bring us to 100 beds and that should be completed in October 2014."

Stanley said it is important for them to expand since about 70 individuals are currently on the waiting list for treatment.

"Addiction is an epidemic in our community right now and we just need to expand our services," she said. "We do not charge individuals to go through our program and every other recovery program does so we are the only option for a lot of people who can't pay."

When compared to other rehabilitation programs, The Healing Place has a success rate five times the national average in terms of graduates who have stayed sober for one year after completion.

The Healing Place offers nonmedical detox and long-term residential addiction recovery programs with a nine-month minimum stay.

Based on a 12-step recovery program, it's run by in-house peer mentors, past residents who have recently completed the program and act as successful role models of recovery. They facilitate meetings, classes and peer support groups.

The center's nonmedical detox is a process that lasts three to seven days and does not involve pharmaceutical intervention.

The Healing Place operates on a $500,000 annual budget, but it hopes to double in size. It pays $25 a day per resident, which according to the organization is less than the average $250-per-day cost of a traditional treatment facility and $50-per-day cost of jail.

Having opened its doors in January 2011, The Healing Place of Huntington has so far served 65 men, 70 percent of whom have remained sober a year later.

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