Individuals overcoming substance use disorder (SUD) often face a series of overwhelming obstacles when reentering their communities. Workplace stigmas around addiction, a lack of transportation to services and unsupportive living situations can all stand in the way of successful long-term recovery. To help individuals navigate these types of barriers, Reintegrate Appalachia – a unique job creation and workforce development project – was launched by West Virginia Sober Living and Coalfield Development Corporation with support from West Virginia University Health Sciences Center and Ascension Recovery Services.
Using ARC support, Reintegrate Appalachia re-engages participants in communities by connecting them with meaningful employment, education opportunities, and clinical/peer-to-peer support in four counties across West Virginia. Ensuring the availability of these support services not only helps workers overcoming SUD maintain their jobs, but also increases overall workforce participation and contributions to Appalachia’s economic growth.
Tim McCullough, one program participant, said “I knew it was in my best interest. I was tired of living the way I was living. I knew the structure that was offered would’ve been proper for me.” Through Reintegrate Appalachia, McCullough has found fulfilling employment and is in long-term recovery.
Success stories like McCullough’s rely on strong partnerships between Reintegrate Appalachia and other community entities. The program recently partnered with Jobs & Hope, the state of West Virginia’s comprehensive response to substance use disorder, to connect with 20 employers in Braxton, McDowell, Wayne, and Monongalia counties. Through these connections, Reintegrate Appalachia secured 14 employer impact statements attesting to participants’ commitment and success as employees. This strategy has created a variety of employment opportunities in food and hospitality, mechanics, clerical work, construction, healthcare, and more. Other partners include BGSE Group, which provides on-site training in several manufacturing sector trades and also currently employees four Reintegrate Appalachia participants.
To date, 121 total participants are currently enrolled in Reintegrate Appalachia and 52 individuals have already graduated. Three of those graduates continued their education by enrolling at West Virginia University, while five more went on to Monongalia County Technical Education Center (MTEC). The many lives changed by this program illustrate the importance of helping Appalachians push beyond their past and move toward a brighter future.
“I go to work early every day. It’s the little things… I really accepted that I was going to die in active addition. For me to get this break is just unbelievable,” said Tim McCullough.