Options for recovering addicts

Discussing two recently opened recovery centers in Clinton County are, from left, Ken Houghtailing with the Clinton County Common Pleas Court, Jeff Rhein with Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren and Clinton Counties, Russell Dern with Solutions Community Counseling and Recovery Centers, and Ivan Faske, a consultant working with MHRS,

WILMINGTON — The Clinton County commissioners were updated Wednesday about two drug addiction recovery houses in Clinton County.

Mental Health and Resources of Warren and Clinton Counties (MHRS) opened both houses, the manager of which is New Housing Ohio, one for women in Blanchester and one for men in Cuba. They were opened in April.

“It’s not just about giving a person a place to flop in a bed; it’s a way to start changing their lives and show them how to actually start living a different life” said Ken Houghtailing, who serves the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas as an Intervention in Lieu of Conviction officer.

MHRS officials also said the recovery houses help those who are recovering from drug addiction by placing them in a positive environment with a support network. It’s a voluntary program that selects residents from court referrals.

Commissioners said the drug issue needed to be addressed but also balanced with residents’ concerns.

“I appreciate the work that you do and the options that you’re giving these folks,” said Commissioner Kerry Steed. “There’s obviously a need. I mean, drugs are the scourge of our society as it is, and we have to work on the recovery (from) and the eradication of” them.

“I know that that cycle has to be broken,” Haley added.

“I just want to make sure that we also take into consideration the sensitivity to the citizens and the local residents that live around these facilities,” Steed said. “It seems like in a couple of our areas Clinton County has been targeted because we have a couple of townships that have no zoning and very few barriers to get in.”

MHRS officials said the stays would be short-term, should improve the entire community, help drug addicts recover, get jobs and learn employable skills.

“It’s a transition,” no more than nine months long, said Brent Lawyer, executive director of MHRS. “It’s a way to move people and develop a new culture, identity for themselves, to practice new behaviors. … We’re not bringing people into the community as much as there are people who are already here.”

Commissioner Kerry Steed said that wasn’t true, since contracts were signed providing beds for Clermont and Brown counties’ referrals. Lawyer said three beds, on average, in the women’s facility were available but said those beds would be paid for by those counties and may be needed to keep the facility at capacity.

Jeff Rhein, MHRS’ director of alcohol and drug addiction services, corrected Lawyer, saying the residents may stay for six months to a year.

Steed asked Lawyer if Clinton County would “become the hub of this housing need,” and Lawyer said if further expansion was deemed necessary, he believed it would occur in Warren County.

When Commissioner Pat Haley asked why the current facilities aren’t located in Warren County, Lawyer, Steed and Rhein said it was easier to locate and build facilities in Clinton County, due to lower barriers.

The Blanchester facility has six beds and currently houses two women. The Cuba facility has 10 beds, one current resident and seven referrals.

MHRS receives funding primarily from local tax levies, Lawyer told the Wilmington News Journal. It also receives state and federal money. State funds primarily paid for the recovery houses, according to Lawyer.

“The state is requiring boards to provide what is called a continuum of care,” said Brett Lawyer, executive director of MHRS. “The state is saying to us that they might pull funding away” if they don’t provide housing.

“We’re giving people a choice,” Lawyer said. “this is not a facility that we use board funds or state funds and say, ‘Here, enjoy your stay.’ This is one where we expect you to get a job.”

Lawyer did say MHRS committed more than $88,000 for staffing each year for at least three years. That pays for two part-time and two full-time employees, one of each at each facility.

Rhein added, “They’re supposed to be paying a weekly rate ($125) that covers the cost to stay there, which should sustain the program.”

Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.