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Opening to come by early 2019 for new Ohio County drug treatment center for women

OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. — By the end of this year or early next year, long-term substance abuse treatment will be available in Ohio County at the new Serenity Hills Life Center serving Wheeling and surrounding areas.

It’s taking shape at the former Paul VI Pastoral Center previously used as a retreat for the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

“What’s missing in the state is that next level of care,” said Sharon Travis, founder of Heart 2 Heart Volunteers and Living Free and the motivating force behind Serenity Hills.

“There’s not enough beds for the longer-term treatment after they get detoxed.”

Serenity Hills Life Center

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $2.9 million rural development loan for the behavioral health facility, just the latest in funding for the planned site designed to address demand.

Plans call for space eventually for 72 treatment beds with ten beds designated specifically for pregnant women with substance use disorder.

To start, “Our focus is going to be women — women veterans, pregnant women, postpartum women, mothers period,” Travis said.

Later on, the site will open to men offering up to a year or more of recovery treatment and support.

In December, Living Free of the Ohio Valley received $3 million in grant funding from the state Department of Health and Human Resources. The grant was among the more than $20 million awarded statewide through the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund.

The fund was created in a 2017 law which mandated that the DHHR identify needs and allocate additional beds for substance use disorder treatment across West Virginia to be operated by the private sector.

Serenity Hills Life Center

Living Free, a nonprofit, used the DHHR grant money to purchase the 149-acre Wheeling site which includes a 42,000 square foot building along with two houses, one of which will be used for a halfway house, Travis said.

Also on site are a chapel, learning library, massage therapy space and gym.

“We’re going to try to hit everything that they need,” she said. “When they come in, they’ll have a multi-disciplinary team that will evaluate them and we’ll come up with a plan for that person and that person will be a part of that plan because it’s a person-centered program.”

After being diagnosed with a chronic illness in her early 20s that had her in and out of wheelchairs requiring constant care, Travis said she wanted to find ways to help others.

She founded Heart 2 Heart Volunteers, a Christian ministry, in Spring 2013 and Living Free for drug recovery in 2015.

Serenity Hills Life Center is the next step in her efforts.

Tentatively, the site was scheduled to open with 24 beds between Nov. 2018 and Jan. 2019.

Fundraising for the project continued through a capital campaign at for site additions that included a generator.

“We’re really excited about this. I mean, it is just so beautiful up here,” Travis told MetroNews.

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, we want to be the missing link.”

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