From a beacon of despair to a beacon of hope. A new $25 million project could not only change the way the world views Portsmouth and Scioto County but life a generation of people living here out of addiction and poverty. Scioto County Daily News has the exclusive story of the biggest economic development story this area has seen in the past year a decade. But more than that, a story of a revolution that could save lives here and across the country.
Here’s a quote from our interview that stuck out to me. “We’re not waiting for someone to come in and build it for us. No one’s coming to do that. The government’s not coming to do it. We have a lot of problems in this town that we have to fix ourselves.”
At one time, the old Williams Shoe Factory (later the Mitchellace Factory) was a symbol of Portsmouth’s status as the shoe manufacturing capital of the country. Our grandparents and parents worked there during the boom days of manufacturing in Scioto County.
As jobs moved overseas and opioids moved in, it became a symbol of something else. Scioto County became known as the capital of pill mills. The birthplace of the opioid epidemic. As news crews rolled into town to cover our misery, the run-down factory made a great visual. A symbol of our despair. A symbol of a glorious past that was long gone and replaced by addiction, poverty, and misery.
Even when Sole Choice moved in and used part of the facility, the abandoned factory was still the photo the Associated Press provided TV stations and Newspapers as an image for Portsmouth, Ohio.
Now, what had become a beacon of despair is a beacon of hope.
The non-profit Counseling Center has served those struggling with alcohol and addiction in our area for 40 years. They’re used to the process of rehabilitation. Now the dedicated staff will be taking on a rehabilitation project like nothing they’ve ever seen before. The plan is to turn a run-down factory building into a gleaming state-of-the-art behavioral health facility that treats addiction as a health issue.
Counseling Center CEO, Andy Albrecht says, “The best way to wrap your mind around it is that it’s set up much like a hospital. If you think about a hospital, you can get everything from a cup of coffee at a food court to major surgery.”
Albrecht says the facility will offer the full range of inpatient and outpatient services. The Counseling Center offers most of these programs now, but they are spread out among several locations. The 250-bed facility will offer services like
Residental treatment with separate floors for men, women, and women with children
Intensive outpatient services
Health and wellness aftercare
Albrecht said, “It’s an opportunity to coordinate it under one roof. It will be services for people who haven’t even had one day of sobriety yet. Crisis intervention services, opioid response teams that get dispersed if someone overdoses. Intensive outpatient services. Inpatient services. All the way to the very backend of treatment. Our treatment model is to provide services from not having one day of sobriety to having one year and more. The longer someone stays engaged in treatment the better the outcome is.”
Focusing on the Big Picture
Albrecht says that treatment for addicts has often been piecemeal, focusing on one problem at a time and not the big picture. “When you look at this facility. The first thing I think of is healthcare. This is how you treat addiction in a healthcare model. We’ve been a little bit jaded out in the community because we’ve seen an explosion of drug and alcohol treatment centers. A lot of those facilities just focus on what part of the continuum.”
Bill Dever, an executive, for The Counseling Center, agrees. He says to expect to see some big changes in the rehab game soon. “Expect more regulation. Health facilities have to operate in a certain way. You wouldn’t be able to perform heart surgery and kick somebody out on the street and say’ good luck recovering.’ You’re going to see more and more regulation. We think we’re ahead of the curve on it.
1 of 5
Lift An Entire Generation Out of Poverty
Some taxpayers may wonder if the facility is a good use of dollars. Bill Dever says he gets their concerns. “When you see the amount of money that is spent on drug and alcohol counseling locally, what you see is a really inefficient spending of money. That’s why you see a treatment center on every corner. They’re relatively easy to start. There’s a lot of taxpayer money going to support drug and alcohol treatment. As one of the only non-profit drug and alcohol treatment centers in the area, and the biggest, we feel we have the duty to use the money efficiently and wisely. If I’m a citizen, I’m saying what are you doing using my tax money? I understand that.”
Combining all of the treatment options in one building will not only improve efficiency, but it will also save $6 million a year in treatment costs.” We will be able to provide more service and more quality service for less money. This model will be the new model in the state of Ohio.”
Job Training Key
But it’s about more than saving money. Successfully rehabilitating individuals can lead to rehabilitating our community. That’s why the new facility will have a heavy focus on job training.
Andy Albrecht says, “We’re going to have a pretty robust vocational program and job training center. A career center for people in recovery. People in recovery have all sorts of different barriers, whether it be a criminal background or no driver’s license There’s a whole host of barriers people face in early recovery. The career center will really hone in on that.”
Dever says the vocational training is key, “If clients are getting employed, staying sober – your crime rates go down. Property values go back up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a model to lift a generation of people out of poverty. We’re interested in taking a population of people, getting them a job, a house, getting them healthy. Everybody wins. If we do our mission right, everybody wins. Whether you have a loved one who is addicted or not. Whether they know it or not.”
Millions in Revenue Generated
And before you ask, the taxpayer money allocated for the project can’t be spent somewhere else to patch roads or hire police officers. Funds are designated for specific purposes.
So how much revenue can you expect this project to generate?
$20 to $25 million for building rehabilitation
$50 million in economic development expected in the East End
$18 million in payroll for 375 full-time jobs with benefits
That doesn’t even consider the amount of money generated when an addict stops being a burden on taxpayers to keep in jail or on assistance and becomes a tax-paying member of society.
Albrecht says neighbors don’t need to worry about security. The facility will have 24-hour security and the residential facilities will be supervised 24 hours a day as well.
They also wanted to clarify that this facility has nothing to do with the closure of OLBH. It’s been in the works for years. And no worries for Sole Choice either. The company is moving locations.
The symbolism of using the factory is not lost on Albrecht. “It’s such an iconic building. To be able to turn it into something that can impact a generation of individuals.”
While there’s an old saying that the two things people hate are change and the way things are, Dever is ready to get radical, ”We’ve got a plan. We’ve got a dream. We execute that in kind of a militant fashion. We’re not waiting for someone to come in and build it for us. No one’s coming to do that. The government’s not coming to do it. We have a lot of problems in this town that we have to fix ourselves. This is a model that’s going to go a long way in aiding that.”.
From a beacon of despair to a beacon of hope From a beacon of despair to a beacon of hope From a beacon of despair to a beacon of hope
We are a grassroots team of local journalists on a mission to give our community up-to-the-second news and events for Southern Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Western West Virginia. We believe progress inspires change and we believe our reporting has become the front-lines of Portsmouth, Ohio's comeback.