As the drug epidemic has raged on, these inspiring West Virginians noticed specific needs in their communities and came up with creative ways to tackle those challenges.
After seeing the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cabell Huntington Hospital fill up with infants affected by their mothers’ opioid abuse, nurses Rhonda Edmunds and Sara Murray decided these special little patients needed a place of their own.
They opened Lily’s Place, a 12-bed recovery center dedicated to drug-affected infants, in October 2014. Babies receive private rooms where they are closely monitored as the drugs are weaned from their systems. Patients typically stay three to six weeks, but Lily’s Place also holds follow-up clinics to continue monitoring patients throughout childhood.
Lily’s Place now offers replication packages to help others start their own infant recovery centers. “We don’t want people to have to reinvent the wheel,” Edmunds says. “We just want to help them however we can.” 304.523.5459, lilysplace.org, @lilysplacewv
Kevin Blankenship was the co-founder of the enormously successful urgent care chain MedExpress, where he served as chief operating officer until 2009. But, as it has many West Virginians, the opioid epidemic touched his life. His brother-in-law died from alcohol and opiate abuse, and his son has struggled with addiction.
Blankenship wanted to do something so, after more than a year of research, he opened Jacob’s Ladder in April 2016. The six-month program—featured in the Netflix documentary Recovery Boys—offers recovery services alongside farm chores to help addicts learn long-term thinking. “Plant something today, reap the benefits in a couple months. If we can combine that type of thinking with the appropriate amount of time away from their other activities, we can make a difference,” Blankenship says. 304.239.1214, jacobsladderbrookside.com, @jacobsladderbrookside
Tara Mason, Lisa Melcher, and Tina Stride met in a support group for families affected by addiction. As they helped one another through their pain, the women came up with an idea. “We’ve got to be the new dealers,” Melcher said. “The dealers of hope.”
The Hope Dealer Project was born. When addicts or their families contact the group—whether by phone, Facebook message, or word of mouth—the women spring into action to find the treatment program best suited to the client’s addiction and personal needs. Once they’ve located an open spot, one of the women transports the client in her personal vehicle, often driving through the night. “We’re not doing this for praise. We’re doing this to get the addicts into recovery,” Stride says. 1.844.383.HOPE, hopedealerproject.org, @thehopedealerproject