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We are Better Together!

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

July 28, 2020 ~

When I was deciding my thesis topic, I had to choose an avenue in which the work would be completed.  I chose, “inter-organizational collaborations”, which is a fancy word for “community partners”.  Throughout the 4 years that Pollen8 has been of service in our community, we have solidified many partnerships.  Rock Lake Presbyterian Church has been one of our long-standing partners.  They hold possession of one of South Charleston’s most famed landmarks, Rock Lake Pool (now Rock Lake Community Life Center).  Rock Lake Community Life Center is located in South Charleston, West Virginia.  Originally it was a rock quarry and then Rock Lake Pool from 1942-1986. 

When I was a kid, Rock Lake Pool was where families went to bask in the sun, cooling down from the summer heat in the crowded pool where daredevils could jump off of the cliffs, slide down the 50 foot slide, and swing from the trapeze.  I remember the year I was finally old enough for my mother to let me go alone, they closed.  There isn’t a person who grew up in South Charleston or one of its surrounding towns that does not have a memory of Rock Lake Pool.  (Click here for a nostalgic video)

Recently, I even came across a 1500 person petition on Facebook asking for the pool to return.  Although I would have gladly signed that petition, I believe it now has a greater purpose.  Over the last 3 years, Pollen8 has reached out to Rock Lake Presbyterian Church members to find a purpose for the under-used location.  We’ve attempted to open a Camp Mariposa (camp for children whose parents are addicted to drugs, a tutoring center for athletes who are struggling in school, and even housed Appalachian Academy there before it found its permanent home at South Charleston Middle School.  I am beyond humbled and proud to announce that last fall, we finally found what we had all been divinely orchestrated to collaborate and achieve.  Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare will be a 9,966 sq. ft. residential, licensed behavioral health facility that provides treatment (both abstinence-based and medically assisted) for women who are committed to recovering from Substance Use Disorder.  At full-capacity, the facility will house 30 women (60 annually) for a 26-week program.  Residents will be supervised with staff onsite 24 hours per day.  The facility is situated on over 3.6 acres of beautiful outside space barricaded by rock cliffs which allows for a holistic and healing environment.   Our staff will be trained to understand a social model in an environment that is warm and inviting and feels like a community-style home.  Our recovery support will consist of community engagement and we will model pro-social behaviors.  Our supportive services will help the women in our program identify two paths:  one is to rectify the present day state of their social (family, friends, community), financial (restitution, citations, child support, student loans), and legal (civil, criminal, Child Protective Services) situations.  The second is finding a purpose worth living towards, identifying innate strengths and talents to create a life more enticing than active addiction.  They will also receive certifications in our Basic Life Skills curriculum of Adult Roles/Responsibilities, ACEs Reduction (breaking the cycle), Finance, Effective Communication, and Health/Wellness/Nutrition.   Pollen8WV has been awarded grant funds from the West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health- Jobs & Hope ($384,407) to renovate the facility and UnitedHealthCare ($95,000) has awarded grant funds for staff training and to complete the outside space.  This space will include a walking path around the perimeter of the rock cliffs and to create a labyrinth to teach mindfulness.  Pollen8 has created a treatment model designed to fill a gap within current Substance Use Disorder programs.  The programs of Pollen8 were developed out of research and best demonstrated practices of evidence-based programming across the United States, Canada and Brazil.  Statistics gathered from that research were used in my thesis while I was obtaining my Master of Arts in Appalachian Studies and then later used to create the business model for Pollen8.  During that research, a direct link was identified between poverty and drug usage with the underlying cause Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).  The three habitual environmental factors that lead to relapse of those in recovery are (1) monotony of life, (2) returning to an unsafe living environment, and (3) returning to the same low socioeconomic status. The removal of these barriers is pertinent for successful reintegration and recovery from Substance Use Disorder.  Without removal, there is an 85% chance of recidivism and relapse within the first year which causes a perpetuating cycle of drug use until the gaps in services are filled.  To address these gaps in treatment, Pollen8 created a program, ReIntegr8, to empower women to break free from the chains of addiction through treatment, supportive community, and providing education and employment training.  Our goal is to restore healthy women to their families, friendships, and society at large. The women will spend the first 5 weeks of their time at Appalachian Behavioral HealthCare in extensive therapy (17 hours weekly) to address the underlying causes of their addiction. The following 21 weeks will be spent rotating through our social enterprises (Café Appalachia, Café Appalachia Catering, and Cultiv8) to learn agriculture, job training, and employability skills.  Upon successful completion of the program, we will help participants identify full-time employment, safe/sober housing, and repair or create supportive and healthy relationships.  We understand that people are going to have concerns; the stigma around substance abuse is significant.  Pollen8 aspires to teach our community that women in recovery are significantly different than those in active addiction.  However, when you hear that a treatment center is moving into your community, questions arise, which is perfectly normal.  This is why we are inviting the community to join us for a ZOOM Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, August 5, at 7:00pm.  What we hope is taken away from this conversation is that we could not think of a better place than the old Rock Lake Pool, where families became so accustomed to being together, should be the very place where families will now have the opportunity to heal and be reunited.  The same courageous acts of jumping off cliffs and trapeze, swimming in uncharted waters will be the exact forms of bravery these women will use to recover from Substance Use Disorder because #RecoveryHappens.

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