- Associated Press - Sunday, November 9, 2014

WAYNESBURG, Pa. (AP) - Three years ago, Steps Inside, a nonprofit drug and alcohol drop-in center in Waynesburg with a mission of recovery, created a “Community Recovery” committee to further that mission in the area.

There were monthly meetings and eventually, three members of Steps Inside became members of the Greene County Drug and Alcohol Advisory Committee.

Bob Terry, president of Steps Inside, said, “At those meetings, we learned of the ongoing crisis in our community. One of the facts that stood out was that out of a population of 38,000, there were 57 babies born addicted over the past two years in our county.”

But despite the county’s effort to help those addicted to drugs and alcohol (it funds detoxing at $240 a day and rehab at $180 a day), there was no rehabilitation or sober living houses in the county.

Until now.

Terry and other members of Steps Inside, along with some experienced guidance from Karen Bennett, executive director of Greene County Human Services, began to explore what it would take to establish a residential facility for men recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Two things needed to be accomplished. First, they needed to acquire a rental property, and second, they needed to adopted a model to follow. This past summer, both goals fell into place.

Those members affiliated with Steps Inside, which was formed in 2001 for the Greene County area. It is a building at 1790 Morris St., where those in recovery can meet, socialize and share how recovery works.

Steps Inside is not affiliated with or supported by AA or any other institution. It is a place for local 12-step recovery groups to hold meetings, but it is primarily a drop-in center, and cannot accommodate live-in residents.

So, it was a either Bennett or Terry who was contacted by a local landlord who said he had a piece of property on South Cumberland Street in the borough of Waynesburg and with the right kind of renovations and a good deal of sweat equity by a host of volunteers, the house could be turned into a residential facility for six men.

Now that the facility was identified, the group needed to establish a model on how to run such an ambitious enterprise, something Greene County has never seen.

A little research paid big dividends.

Terry and his fellow members discovered the Oxford House models and visited three such houses in Washington County.

The term Oxford House refers to any house operating under the “Oxford House Model,” a community-based approach to addiction treatment, which provides an independent, supporting and sober living environment. Today, there are more than 1,000 Oxford Houses in the United States and other countries.

But Terry makes it clear Steps Inside Inc. is not affiliated with Oxford House. “It was out of critical need to provide a safe living environment in our community that led us to the Oxford House Model,” he said. “Our mission of recovery, along with the epidemic losses we are seeing in our community, compelled our members to take action,” he said.

As an evidence-based program, it has some of the most promising numbers when it comes to the problems of habitual relapse, More importantly, Terry said, it relies on the individuals taking personal responsibility to re-establish themselves as part of the group and the larger community.

For the last several months, volunteers have been working tirelessly to get the house ready to accommodate the potential residents. With a $10,000 contribution from Human Services, money used primarily for the “bricks and mortar rehabilitation, the house has been transformed into a comfortable living environment for its tenants.

Presently, two residents have been identified and are ready to move in when four other men are chosen.

“But his is not a flop house or a half-way house,” Terry said. “It is a residential living facility with hard and fast rules the residents must follow.

Specifically, those who come to live at Cumberland Oxford House may still be receiving rehabilitation and detoxification treatment. They do not have to be entirely drug free, Terry said.

However, the rules to live at the house are quite clear. There is to be no use of drugs or alcohol and no disruption while living there. Second, the house must be run democratically, and each resident must pay equal expense of operating the house, such a rent and utilities.

There is no overseer living at the house. The men are on their own and function as a family.

The Cumberland House breaks down to about $380 a month for each resident. Moreover, if a resident is working, he is required to attend three, 12-step meetings a week, and if unemployed, five, 12-step meeting a week, and these meeting sites and either be at Steps Inside, AA or NA, whichever the resident chooses.

Terry also emphasized that there is a screening process and if the applicant passes the application and interview process established under Oxford House guidelines, there are accepted.

“There is no restriction on length of stay as long as they follow the rules,” Terry said.

Since the house is operated in a democratic fashion, the residents elect officers: a president, controller, secretary and treasurer. Accurate and complete financial books are kept and are available for review by and Oxford House representative in a periodical fashion.

Perhaps most important, if one resident “breaks the rules, the others can vote to have him removed from the house.

Terry made it clear that while a resident does not have to be “clean” for a specified period when he arrives,” using drugs and alcohol at the house is prohibited and a user is expelled.

And, each resident will required to perform some community service while living at the house. A resident who is employed can do two hours of community service a week, and one who is unemployed may opt for 10 hours a week.

“This is a workable model, and we are confident it will be an asset to the community,” Terry said.

“These men have no criminal records they are not child molesters or violent offenders,” Terry said. “The community need not fear having them as part of their neighborhood,” he said.

There are plans down the road to establish a similar house for women, but that is still an idea in the works.





Information from: Observer-Reporter, https://www.observer-reporter.com

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