A rendering of the Wildwood addiction recovery facility.
A rendering of the Wildwood addiction recovery facility.

Dickenson County officials and the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority are supporting the location of a residential addiction recovery facility near Clintwood because the county has been hit hard by the epidemic of substance abuse disorder, and it could create as many as 50 jobs.

A groundbreaking for Wildwood Recovery Center will be held this spring with construction expected to start later this year, Addiction Recovery Care (ARC) officials announced this week.

ARC is headquartered in Louisa, Kentucky, and, since opening in 2010, has treated more than 50,000 people in its more than 30 treatment programs across Eastern and Central Kentucky. This will be its first facility in Virginia and its first outside of Kentucky.

The project is expected to total more than $7 million, according to Dana Cronkhite, director of economic development for Dickenson County.

It is being funded by a $4 million loan awarded by VCEDA and a $2 million loan by the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority. The remainder will be funded by the Dickenson County Board of Supervisors, the town of Clintwood and other county entities.

VCEDA has helped fund other health care-related projects, including retention of the Dickenson County Community Hospital and an assisted living facility in Buchanan County, but it has never been involved with an addiction treatment facility, said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA’s executive director.

It supports the project because it is one of the only in-patient residential substance abuse rehabilitation facilities in the region, the county and its Industrial Development Authority deemed it important because of both its health and economic development benefits and because its size, employment numbers and economic impact are greater than a typical facility, he added.

There are several facilities in Southwest Virginia that offer outpatient addiction treatment services and at least a couple that offer residential services, including one with 16 beds in Lebanon, which is about 40 miles away, and Galax, which is about 150 miles from the Clintwood area.

Statistics from the Virginia Department of Health show that addiction treatment is needed in the county, which had a population of 13,787 in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Since 2007, there have been nearly 100 overdose deaths in Dickenson County, 94 between 2007-2021. During that period, the county had a rate of 41.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 Virginia residents, which is among the highest across the state, according to the state Health Department numbers. The statewide rate was 14.9 deaths per 100,000 residents.

The final totals aren’t in for 2022 yet, but there were four overdose deaths in the first six months of the year in the county.

“Like Eastern Kentucky, Dickenson County is part of a region that has been hit especially hard by the addiction crisis,” said Tim Robinson, founder and CEO of Addiction Recovery Care. “Unlike Eastern Kentucky, however, treatment options are limited for individuals with substance use disorder. We are excited to bring our Crisis to Career model to a community that will benefit greatly from having access to these services.”

That model is a four-phase, year-long program that combines substance use disorder treatment, primary care, counseling and peer support with life skills, education and job training to “set up clients for long-term success,” ARC said in a news release.

That comprehensive approach sets the project apart from other addiction treatment facilities, said Cronkhite.

“Not all treatment is created equal. Addiction Recovery Care is a mission-driven organization that truly wants to transform the communities they serve. … Crisis to Career is all about treatment with an end goal – and that goal is getting people healthy so they reenter the workforce and become productive, independent members of the community.  … ARC’s Crisis to Career model is not just about going to meetings, checking boxes and sending people on their way. The focus is on long-term outcomes, rather than short-term results, and that means preparing individuals for life after they’ve completed treatment,” she said.

In addition to jobs, county officials believe there will be a greater economic impact because family and friends will visit their loved ones at the facility and stay in local hotels, eat in restaurants and shop there, Belcher added.

The one-story facility will include two 7,000-square-foot administrative buildings and six, 1,900-square-foot dormitories, allowing ARC to serve up to 96 individuals. The buildings will be modular, according to Cronkhite.

Initially, the center will serve only men, but ARC hopes to expand the campus in the future to include a women’s facility, the news release states.

Within its first year of operation, Wildwood Recovery Center will create approximately 30 local jobs, according to ARC. VCEDA said in its news release announcing the loan that the center could employ as many as 52 in two to five years.

The site is at Chip Mill Road, which is near Red Onion State Prison. The property is part of a parcel that was purchased by the county’s IDA in 2021.

The facility is expected to open by early 2024. Greg May is the developer.

Pictured from left to right: Dana Cronkhite, Director of Economic Development for Dickenson County; Larry Barton, Dickenson County Administrator; Freddie Mullins, Dickenson County IDA Attorney; Greg May, Developer; Congressman Morgan Griffith, R-Va.; Larry Yates, Dickenson County IDA Chairman and Mayor of Haysi. Courtesy of VCEDA.

Susan Cameron

Susan Cameron is a reporter for Cardinal News. She has been a newspaper journalist in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee for nearly 40 years. She is based in Bristol. Reach her at susan@cardinalnews.org.