Matt Kerner
Matt Kerner, the executive director of the Opportunity House

BUCKHANNON – The Opportunity House, Inc. has received a $200,000 grant to research a plan that will outline how to tackle the addiction crisis within the community.

Executive director of the Opportunity House, Matthew Kerner said the grant is called a Rural Communities Opioid Response Program grant, and it will allow research to be done to figure out what the community should be doing to combat addiction.

The Opportunity House’s mission is to provide supportive housing and resources for individuals who are in active recovery from addiction.

Funding for the grant comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.

“We will develop a plan and see where we are lacking and where the greatest needs are,” Kerner said. “Once we’ve come up with a plan and then we submit that, doors will open for more money. There have been other people who have had these type of planning grants, and then they turn their stuff in and they turned it into a couple million dollars and actionable items, so if it’s decided that we need more recovery houses, that may allow us to buy more houses.”

Currently, the Opportunity House actually includes a recovery center and three houses – the Opportunity House, temporary housing for men working to recover from addiction; the Serenity House, permanent housing for individuals who have recovered from addiction; and the Promise House for homeless veterans who are disabled due to chronic alcohol/drug use.

He said while the grant was awarded to the Opportunity House, there were a couple people involved with receiving the grant.

“Fortunately, Kristi Walker from Community Care has done a similar grant, and they’ve been really, really helpful in the past,” Kerner said. “We partnered with them on theirs, and they’re partnering on ours, along with St. Joe’s and Buckhannon Medical Center.”

Kerner said while the agencies have partnered for similar grants, the entities’ goals were a little different.

“Their focus was primarily prevention and treatment, and the areas that we’re going to be focused on are going to be intervention and recovery,” Kerner said. “What happens after somebody goes to treatment? How do we get them ready for long term recovery programs? How do we build recovery capital in the community, so that when people have someone in their family that needs help, they know where to go, what to do and which services are available?”

He said he expects one major piece of the puzzle the research will reveal is the need for more recovery housing.

“When you send somebody to like a 28-day treatment program, and then you bring them right back and put them in their own environment, far more often than not, they fail and start abusing again,” Kerner said. “We try to change that by keeping them engaged in recovery for a longer period of time. The two most important factors under treatment and recovery are the intensity and the duration of services, so if we can keep people longer, what happens is they go through more life events in a supportive environment.”

“They get jobs, they lose jobs, sometimes family members pass away, and all that stuff happens in a supportive environment, rather than an environment that’s high risk,” Kerner added.

He said a support system for families also affected by addiction is something to likely come up in this planning period.

“Clearly, there’s a need not just for recovery housing, but we need to find ways to support families, and there are probably thousands of grandparents in Upshur County who are parenting kids again, against their will, just to keep them out of the foster care system,” Kerner said. “The kid’s parents may not be available to be parents, so we want to look at how can we support families that are in that position.”

Kerner said the research period is expected to last about a year.