Health Care

Neil Kennedy Clinic Breaks Ground for Sober House

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio –Michael Senchak envisions a row of new houses near the Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic that would serve as an important stepping stone for patients in the early stages of recovery from substance abuse.

“We want to make this all supportive housing and sober housing,” Senchak, president and CEO of the Mahoning Valley Hospital Foundation, said Tuesday as he pointed to a street that runs parallel to the Neil Kennedy complex on Rush Boulevard. “We have a great resource, and we tie that all together. It’s not only about the community, it’s more about the people who are affected.”

Senchak’s comments came as officials broke ground on a new, 12-bed, recovery house next to the Neil Kennedy campus that was made possible by a $350,000 grant from the foundation.

“Our foundation has been very generous with doing alcohol and drug projects,” Senchak said. “What we need is more education. We need more treatment. And without a doubt, we need more housing when people come out of treatment.”

Often, those emerging from treatment and return to the environment they left are more likely to relapse into addiction and their earlier behaviors, Senchak said. Temporary housing is an integral part of treatment to re-acclimate patients into daily life.

“This gives them an opportunity to work their programs, work on their development and stay sober,” he said. “During the day, if there is free time, they can participate in programs in their own backyard at the Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic” as they taking advantage of the support system designed to help them start their personal and physical growth.

Carolyn Givens, executive director of Neil Kennedy, said the new sober house – named “Doc’s Place” for Wellington “Doc” Hager, a longtime substance abuse counselor – will be the second such house Neil Kennedy administers.

“As a part of the continuum, we think that sober housing is critical for our population of people to enjoy full recovery,” she said. “Of course, after that would be employment services.”

The new house complements the Gelbman House, a recovery home built in 2014 that serves only women. Doc’s Place will provide temporary housing for men in recovery.

“We hope to have it finished Nov. 1,” Givens said. “We’ll start with eight residents.”

The normal length of stay at these houses runs about 30 days, Givens said. Doc’s Place would offer a sober-living environment to Neil Kennedy patients who require more structure than what traditional outpatient programs provide but no longer need detoxification services and medical monitoring.

The program includes 24-hour security, meals, treatment services through Neil Kennedy, community-building skills with other residents, and recovery coaching to build resilience.

“They go through detox here. They go through residential. And then they go up to the house,” Givens said. “It starts their pattern of being able to manage their life and find quality again.”

Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said the agency has talked to communities about expanding their housing programs to support recovering addicts.

“If you just have intensive treatment, then you go back into the community whence you came. The odds of relapse are much higher because you’re still early in your recovery,” Plouck said. “You may not have fully developed the skills that you need to live a different kind of life.”

Pictured: Officials turn shovels to signify the start of construction for the Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic’s new sober house.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.