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Parkersburg sees major increase in treatment facilities

Judd Fulks from Westbrook Health Services gives a tour of the Exodus residential substance abuse treatment center for men during an Aug. 31 ribbon-cutting event. (File Photo)

PARKERSBURG — Five years ago, with overdose deaths rising and the opioid epidemic in the spotlight, Wood County had just 30 state-licensed, residential substance abuse treatment beds.

Today, there are 283, about a quarter of the total number in West Virginia, according to state and local statistics. Just over 200 of them are within the city limits of Parkersburg.

Kanawha County, the state’s most populous, has the next highest total, with 141.

“To say the least, we’re concerned that Parkersburg has … (18) percent of the total licensed rehab beds in the state,” Mayor Tom Joyce said. “It’s very disproportionate.”

While Joyce said he’s not opposed to addiction treatment, he’s concerned with the effects on the community, pointing to an increase in property crimes and police contacts with homeless individuals in recent years. City police filed 52 shoplifting charges in 2016, compared to 150 in 2020, he said. Investigations in which officers had contact with, but did not necessarily charge, homeless individuals rose from 115 in 2019 to 187 last year.

The ribbon was cut at Exodus, Westbrook Health Services’ residential treatment center for men, on Aug. 31. (File Photo)

Joyce said he doesn’t attribute these issues solely to people coming to the area for addiction treatment, but he believes there’s a correlation.

“I’m not against people receiving treatment for their addiction, and I’m not against charitable people doing charitable work,” he said. “The reality is, how much can one community absorb?”

Eighty beds have been added in the county since Harmony Ridge Recovery Center set up shop in 2017 at the White Oak Village facilities at Mountwood Park, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Joyce said he’s seen no indication that facility has a connection to issues in the city, given its location, but the remaining 203 beds are in Parkersburg.

Westbrook Health Services provided all 30 beds in the city and county prior to 2017. Fifteen were at its Amity Treatment Center, which offers 30-day treatment for men and women, and 15 were at the Genesis facilities for women.

In September, Westbrook opened Exodus, a residential treatment facility for male patients expected to stay there for three to six months. Its 12 beds were recently filled.

Located in the former federal building on Juliana Street in Parkersburg, Clean & Clear Advantage offers bedrooms for one to four people. (File Photo)

“We’ve needed the beds for a long time, and we’re finally … getting them ready to meet the needs,” Westbrook CEO Kevin Trippett said.

Exodus was made possible by a $1 million grant from the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund, established by the state in a 2017 bill aimed at expanding treatment resources.

The fund also provided $3 million to St. Joseph Recovery Center, which has 86 beds. Program Director Jordan Granus said there was a lack of treatment beds in the area and state when they opened, and the former St. Joseph’s Hospital provided an ideal location as it was already set up for health care.

St. Joseph’s beds — 74 for residential treatment, 12 for detox — have been 85 to 90 percent full, Granus said, although that was cut “pretty significantly” during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clean & Clear Advantage opened last year in the former federal building at 425 Juliana St., which was purchased in 2017 by Dr. Vyacheslav Ripa, a New York developer. He considered using it for office, manufacturing and retail space; luxury apartments; and as a convention center. With little interest shown in those approaches, he told The Parkersburg News and Sentinel in December, he and his business partners turned their attention to a rehab facility.

Clean & Clear officials declined to be interviewed for this story.

The tally of beds does not include Recovery Point Parkersburg, a peer-led, non-medical program that opened with 80 beds in 2017.

“In the Parkersburg area, the need has probably been well met at this point,” Granus said. “When we started, no, there was definitely a need for more beds.”

Trippett said it’s too early to tell if the region is “saturated” with treatment beds.

“I don’t think we’ll know for probably this calendar year,” he said.

Granus and Trippett said their organizations deal mostly with West Virginia residents and they work to ensure patients do not add to the area’s homeless population once they leave their programs.

A story on legislation proposed to provide state oversight of where treatment programs can locate will appear in Monday’s edition of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

***

Licensed substance abuse treatment beds by county

* Brooke: 10

* Cabell :106

* Harrison: 42

* Jefferson: 48

* Kanawha: 141

* Marion: 72

* Mason: 60

* McDowell: 14

* Mercer: 42

* Mingo: 98

* Monongalia: 50

* Nicholas: 12

* Ohio: 82

* Preston: 28

* Raleigh: 16

* Wood: 283 (Parkersburg — 203)

Source: West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Westbrook Health Services

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