RHOAR women’s recovery center opens in Middlesboro

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Officials from Cumberland River Behavioral Health and the Fletcher Group were joined by representatives from the federal, state and local government for the grand opening of the RHOAR Center in Middlesboro just across the street from the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College.

Designed to help women recover from substance abuse disorder through holistic treatment, the center provides living spaces, medically assisted treatment and mental health counseling in addition to a vocational training and a workforce rehabilitation program.

In addition to a 100-bed inpatient facility, the center has 52 family living units to allow mothers in recovery to reunite with their children. There are 30 efficiencies, 10 four-person units and 12 two-bedroom apartments designated for families being reunited in recovery.

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“It will impact thousands and thousands of people’s lives. When you touch one mother, you’ve touched the child and you’ve touched generations so it’s a gift that just keeps on giving,”  said former Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, founder of the Fletcher group.

RHOAR, which stands for Recovery, Hope, Opportunity and Resilience, is modeled after Recovery Kentucky. The initiative was created to help rural communities in eastern Kentucky respond to the opioid epidemic.

The $14 million project was made possible through a combination of a SOAR Power grant, over $900,000 in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and $4 million in National Housing Trust Fund dollars from the Kentucky Housing Corporation, and partnerships between Cumberland River, the Fletcher Group and the Bell County Industrial Foundation. Southeast will provide access to educational resources for the women in recovery and SEKRI will provide job opportunities for those who are seeking employment.

Fletcher was joined in speaking at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house by Cumberland River Behavior Health CEO Melanie Yeager, Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock, Middlesboro Mayor Boone Bowling, Executive Director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy Van Ingram, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s State Director Robbin Taylor, Congressman Hal Rogers’ District Director Carlos Cameron, and the Fletcher Group Outreach Specialist Erica Walker.

“We’ve seen a lot happen in Kentucky in terms of recovery over the last 10 or 15 years. I think we kind of lost our way when we focus on a quick fix. This program is different, it’s a long-term solution,” Walker said. “This program will help thousands of women across Kentucky enter and maintain long-term recovery.”

Bowling and Brock welcomed all the guests to Middlesboro and Bell County.

“This is a really, really special place. We’ve got a lot of projects going on here in Bell County, we’re blessed. We’ve got the number one biggest tourism project in the state in Boone’s Ridge. We’ve got an innovative manufacturing facility that has boundless potential for growth for our community (Flash Steelworks),” Brock said. “But I can honestly say that as grand as those two projects are and as proud as we are to have them, this project will truly impact more people’s lives than those other two. . . This project is going to reunite a mother with her child that her parents are presently raising. Not only will we reunite that child with their mother, what’s unique about this project is that we will walk her across the street and get her an education of her choice and if she wants to be employed we will employ her at SEKRI.”

Ingram congratulated Bell County on the opening of the RHOAR Center.

“This is amazing. I get to tour a lot of treatment centers and this is the Cadillac, this is first rate, it doesn’t get any better than this,” he said.

Cameron said Rogers would be proud to see the facility.

“We believe that every individual who comes here will have access to the tools they need to walk out with their heads held high in victory,” he said. “We celebrate what you have accomplished here, we celebrate what you’re going to accomplish, we stand ready to support any future endeavors in this region.”

Taylor said that McConnell has worked closely with the Fletch Group and helped them to secure $26 million for their efforts.

“No community across this state is successful unless they have good leadership who are working together,” she said. “What I see here is the community, the city, the county, the state, the federal government and private partners who are coming together to make a huge difference.”

Yeager said she remembered the day in 2019 when Fletcher came to office and sat on her couch to talk about the project.

“It was a lot like what we were doing in our recovery center, but it takes it a little further. We did take a chance on it and I think it was a wonderful chance. . . with the help of everybody that pitched in to understand that a project like this really will work,” she said. “Cumberland River Behavioral Health has been in business since the late ’60s and we are charged with taking care of the people in our communities and to help them live the best lives that they can.”

Fletcher shared a statistic from New Hampshire that he believes would be similar in Kentucky. It showed a 15% reduction in overdose deaths through hard reduction programs but the came with an increase in non-fatal overdoses.

“I believe in harm reduction — that’s important because if you don’t save lives then you don’t have an opportunity to provide a pathway to recovery. But that can’t be all you do,” he said. “So this work is extremely important, not only in ending the death rate, but also in transforming life so that we see that people have found more meaning and more purpose in life.”

Fletcher also praised former SKCTC president Dr. Vic Adams for his work with the industrial foundation and the college in making the RHOAR Center possible.

“Vic saw an opportunity to really give people a pathway to recovery and through the educational system to move them into meaningful employment so they could become substantial contributors to the community,” he said. “We have a large number of folks out there who are overcome with SUD or substance abuse disorder whose lives can be turned around. Not only do you help them, you help the communities they live in to be more attractive for economic development.”

Tim Cesario is the director of recovery services for Cumberland River Behavioral Health. He said Thursday’s opening was the pinnacle of five years of hard work.

“We literally started working on this in August of 2019. There was just so much work that went on behind the scenes,” he said.. “All of it with the goal of not only helping women, but helping families and bridging some of the gaps that we saw in some of our other treatment centers to try and develop a new treatment model. Gov. Fletcher mentioned the recovery ecosystem and that’s exactly what we’re trying to develop here.”

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Cesario unveiled a special plaque dedicating the family room at the RHOAR Center to Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Mrs. Glenna Fletcher.