LEWISBURG, W.Va. — The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg wants to make it easier for people who struggle with substance abuse to find a job.
Dr. Drema Hill, vice president for community engagement and chief operations officer, said a $500,000 grant announced by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) last week will allow them to do just that by helping adults 18 and older who are in recovery and unemployed.
“It’s vital that we provide that support that allows them to be able to maintain their recovery and their treatment and be able to work to support themselves and their families,” Hill said.
WVSOM’s Center for Rural and Community Health will receive $250,000 per year for two years to implement a project called Connecting the DOTS: Developing Opportunities for Transportation Ecosystems.
Hill said the project will address barriers in Greenbrier County’s recovery ecosystem, including access to reliable transportation, available childcare and supportive mentoring and provide targeted training involving local employers and workers in recovery.
“Not only will be training people in partnership with New River Community College, we will train people to have more skills to get jobs but also we will train employers, so they know how to work with people in recovery,” she said.
The funding will allow the center to partner with the Mountain Transit Authority to develop, implement and coordinate a transportation service and expand bus routes for people in recovery to travel for workforce-related needs.
Hill said a lot of people have trouble getting to and from job interviews.
“The biggest barrier is transportation and then childcare because when you’re in recovery and you’re trying to return to work, that’s hard enough,” she said.
The school will also work with the Meadow River Valley Early Childhood Learning Center in Rupert to implement a workforce mentoring program for those in recovery. Hill said local businesses will offer targeted workforce training to about 40 workers to start.
Hill said they want to eliminate the stigma surrounding recovering drug users who can’t find a job. She said it’s important to offer these opportunities not only for the individual, but also society as a whole.
“It’s good for the community too because we want people to contribute to our communities. What I like about this is we have so many employers who are interested in the training for how to best work with them. That just speaks volumes of our community,” she said.
WVSOM President James Nemitz said in a statement the ARC’s funding will go a long a way.
“I’m appreciative to the Appalachian Regional Commission for giving us the funds to build programs we believe will improve West Virginia’s communities by making it possible for people in recovery to return to employment,” Nemitz stated. “Work plays an important role in personal fulfillment because it provides a sense of purpose, and a healthier, stronger workforce benefits us all.”
The grant comes from the ARCs Investments Supporting Partnerships in Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) initiative. ARC federal co-chair Gayle Manchin said the goal of the INSPIRE grants is to allow Appalachia residents to reclaim their lives after being impacted by substance use.
“At ARC, we know that substance use disorder recovery isn’t a singular event, but a continuum. Both workforce training and ending the stigma surrounding substance use disorder are equally important in providing a renewed sense of hope and purpose to Appalachians in recovery,” Manchin said in a statement.