HUNTINGTON — Mothers of young children, mired in their own personal struggle with substance use disorder, too often face a gut-wrenching choice: seeking long-term treatment or staying with their kids.
Eliminating that dilemma by housing women with their children during long-term recovery is the goal of Project Hope for Women and Children, a new residential addiction treatment center for pregnant and postpartum women, which officially opened Thursday in downtown Huntington.
The facility is spearheaded and operated by Marshall Health, the medical outreach arm of Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.
“Making a woman choose between her children and long-term recovery is unfair, and that’s the position people have been in this entire time — it’s never been an option to take your kids with you,” said Lyn O’Connell, associate director of addiction sciences at Marshall Health.
“This is the solution to that. She’ll be able to be there for all those development milestones and still be in recovery.”
The new 18-unit residential facility, at a newly renovated 15,000-square-foot facility at 1012 7th Ave. in Huntington, will provide a secure, stable living environment for mothers and their children. The site also will provide on-site individual and group therapy and life skills practice for new mothers, expecting mothers with small children, and mothers with children up to 12 years old.
Modeled like an apartment complex with 11 three-bedroom units, seven two-bedroom units and a common courtyard, the facility is secured and staffed at all hours.
Marshall Health announced Thursday it would also build a playground, basketball court and picnic area for children in the spring of 2019, courtesy of a donation by The Health Plan.
The facility is the first of its kind in West Virginia and one of a few nationwide specifically for women and children.
“It really just changes the future structure of that family. It stops any trauma, addresses any potential homelessness, and it creates a supportive environment,” O’Connell said. “It’s a unique filling of the gap in the continuum of care that Huntington’s been striving to address.”
The first five families are set to move into Project Hope next week.
The program will partner with other community initiatives, such as Healthy Connections, the Maternal Opioid Medication Support (MOMS) program at Cabell Huntington Hospital and Marshall Health’s Maternal Addiction Recovery Center (MARC).
Patients also will be referred to the new PROACT facility for medication-assisted therapy, counseling, job training and placement services.
Adjacent to the Huntington City Mission, Project Hope came to life in an uncertain time when many transitional housing offerings have lost funding, said Mitch Webb, mission director, calling it a shot in the arm from Huntington’s grassroots work to address addiction.
“The potential is tremendous for women in addiction — that come to the mission, that are homeless perhaps even because of the addiction,” Webb said. “This presents great possibilities that were not possible before today.”
Project Hope is funded through a five-year, $2.62 million federal grant awarded to Marshall through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The facility is managed by newly hired Jessica Tackett, project director for Project Hope.