Fellowship Hall Remains Open After Neil Kennedy Center Closes

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For generations, those needing recovery help in the Mahoning Valley knew the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center was there to assist them.

However, as 2022 came to a close, the recovery center also found itself closing.

The Neil Kennedy Board, Meridian Health Care and the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board are among those making certain those who need recovery services are continuing to receive them.

“I have a real fondness for Neil Kennedy. It’s been an important part of the community, so we’re looking to make it work in the future,” said Tom Sanborn, chairman of the board of the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center. “Our first priorities were to the patients, the staff and Fellowship Hall. Now we’ll look to the future and see what we can do.”

The Neil Kennedy Recovery Center board had learned that as of Dec. 31, Gateway Rehab would no longer be providing support services for its organization, which included its human resources, medical record keeping and medical billing.

Sanborn said the Gateway relationship went back to the 1990s, and the decision by Gateway to end it was strictly a business one. He believes Gateway is expanding in Pennsylvania, and the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center was that organization’s only relationship in Ohio.

Sanborn said the board looked at alternatives but had no other option but to close the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center at this time. However, the Fellowship Hall remains open.

Meridian Health Care and the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board stepped in to make certain everyone continued to receive the necessary care.

“Our board and Meridian, our primary concern was we had to assure the clients had care, and they do,” said Duane Piccirilli of Mental Health and Recovery. “The second concern was we had to protect the staff there, because many of the staff had years of service.”

Larry Moliterno of Meridian Health Care said the patients were transferred to appropriate treatment at their facilities, and many of the employees interested in working for Meridian were offered positions. Some staff also found positions at other agencies.

After that, the priority became making certain Fellowship Hall, which hosts the meetings of more than 20 recovery groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous, remained available to those who needed it.

“The most important thing right now is we want to assure [care for the more than] 24 support groups that meet at Fellowship Hall – that Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gambling Anonymous, those support groups are essential to keeping people in recovery,’ Piccirilli said. “People depend on them. … Our Mental Health Recovery Board and Meridian and Neil Kennedy’s Board, we’re doing everything we can to make sure Fellowship Hall remains open.”

Founded in 1946, the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center was the nation’s first private, freestanding, alcoholism treatment facility. The current recovery center facility was built in 1967 on Rush Boulevard, specifically for treating those in recovery.

Sanborn said the board has long discussed that the building is old and needs some updates. However, the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center is a nonprofit organization, and medical billing has to cover its services and costs. He also believes it will take some time to fully separate all of its records after a long relationship with Gateway.

The Neil Kennedy Recover Center board remains in discussion with Meridian and others about what the future may look like for the center. Sanborn is uncertain if Neil Kennedy will remain in the facility on Rush Boulevard, noting the recovery center started somewhere else and may end up in another location again.

Moliterno said at Meridian Health, they would love to be able to develop the building on Rush Boulvard into a place for recovery support services, but Meridian also does not have the funds needed to make the necessary repairs to the building.

“We’re trying to work out an arrangement with Meridian Health to keep Neil Kennedy a viable part of the community,” Sanborn said. “It has history here.”

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.