The following is a synopsis of the Putnam Rotary meeting of Sept. 17. The club meets at 8 a.m. Tuesdays at Area 34 in Hurricane.

As West Virginia led the nation in drug overdose deaths, the parents and friends of teenage victims in Huntington decided to act. They started the Recovery Point program eight years ago.

They started with 10 beds at their center, Allison Conley told Putnam Rotary this morning. “Then there were 20 beds,” she said. “Now there are 110 beds in the Huntington center.”

And the program has mushroomed into centers at Bluefield, Charleston and Parkersburg. Bluefield serves 62 men. Parkersburg has room for 80 men. Charleston has a 100-bed program for women.

“There is a 10-bed transitional program for women in Huntington,” Conley added. “It’s called Her Place.”

Recovery Point is a peer-led, long-term residential operation based on love and rigorous accountability.

The first step is “detox.” “It takes three to seven days,” said Conley. “Those people are the most important people in the building,” she continued. “We show unconditional love. They get all the food they want, even gourmet meals. We’ll even fluff your pillow. If we can’t keep them for the detox, how can we ever keep them for the rest of the nine to twelve months?

“So many of these individuals have been out on the streets. They’ve been homeless. They have poor hygiene. They’ve been told by the entire community that they’re worthless.”

The Recovery Point staff has been through addiction and recovery. “When you walk in, they will sit down with you and say, ‘We know you’re in excruciating pain and homeless. But we understand. And it does get better.’

“In Huntington, 60 percent of the men there are court-ordered. Bluefield is all court-ordered.”

But there is a waiting list to get into the program.

After the “detox” entry program, comes the OTS (“off the streets”) phases, the most rigorous part.

“You get three meals a day and a snack. Beginning about 5:45 in the morning, there are chores, (periods of) meditation, breakfast, and trudge walking with a purpose — two miles down the road to classes at a church.

“Walking two miles in any kind of weather may sound cruel, but we tell them, ‘If you’ll walk to the ends of the earth to find heroin, can you go to the ends of the earth to find your recovery?’

“This is a time for them not only to get out of the building, but to buddy up and hear from individuals who have gone further along in the program to walk with them.”

Only about 20 percent of the clients remain in the program after this, Conley admitted. “But after they’ve made it this far, about 80 percent of them graduate.”

But many of those who leave the program will come back. They learn life skills. “Volunteers come in to teach cooking, money management, parenting. If we’re not focusing on something other than recovery, we’re missing something. We need to equip them for interviews, resumes, proper clothing.

“Retention rates now get much higher,” she said.

“The program is completely free,” she added. “We do not charge a single penny for someone to come through our drug recovery program.”

The cost of the Recovery Point program is $25 per person per day. “We get $15.50 from the state,” said Conley. “That leaves a $7.50 gap for more than 360 clients. Close to a million dollars each year must be filled by grants and donations.”

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