Recovery facility aims to open in summer

Originally published in The Journal

MARTINSBURG — Mountaineer Behavioral Health Recovery Center aims to complete construction and open its doors to the public this summer.

Dr. Jonathan Hartiens, director of Mountaineer Behavioral Health, presented sketches of the long-term treatment facility to the Berkeley County Council during Thursday morning’s weekly meeting and gave an update on the work that will be done at the facility.

“A lot of what we have done has come out of listening to the desires of people in the community,” Hartiens said. “Recently, a West Virginia delegate spoke and he said something I feel is important (about the facility), ‘This will be a shining star of the state of West Virginia.’ Our motto is, ‘where hope becomes reality.’ Many stay in addiction because they’ve given up hope but the aesthetics here are designed to give the feeling that, ‘I can get well here.’”

Hartiens explained during his presentation that the project was meant to be a largely collaborative effort between the local government and Mountaineer Behavioral Health, and would need to appropriately serve the community’s demand.

“We ended up changing the game plan to a property that is near the VA,” Hartiens said. “This is a bigger property that will allow for a bit more square footage. While the cost is a bit more than previous land we’ve looked at, the added square footage will be of much more value in the long run.”

The blueprints shared with the council showed a facility that would house 48 beds and was designed in a purposeful, aesthetic manner that Hartiens explained was “set up to incorporate principles that we want the program to reflect.”

“The first principle is to demonstrate compassion and care,” Hartiens said. “If you look at similar facilities in the state you’ll see that many are nothing more than warehousing patients. It’s not a very comfortable or hospitable environment. So we wanted to give dignity and respect to the patients who come here, whether with private insurance or Medicare. We wanted it to have that kind of aesthetic to it”

Hartiens went on to explain that the facility would also employ the principle called “continuum of care.” Hartiens explained that many patients find that their treatment is disjointed — meaning they may get treatment from a medical center, then a separate provider, then a therapist and have to retell their story and medical history to three to four separate facilities in an effort to continue treatment. Hartiens explained that the Mountaineer Behavioral Health Treatment Facility is designed and constructed to end that disjointed cycle and instead keep all of the patient’s care connected.

“We have the left side of the building, which will be residential,” Hartiens said. “The center cathedral will be a multipurpose cafeteria that can be used for graduations or educational forums open to community. And the right side will be for professional development, so medical care and therapists. As they discharge, we want them to be able to come back and see the same providers they have been so that they can continue their care.”

Hartiens said the facility would provide cutting edge care to the patients, aiming to implement the newest medicines, treatments and practices to help continue recovery.

Hartiens also shared with the council members his plan to address and monitor the economic impact of the facility on the local area. Hartiens explained that economic department leaders at West Virginia University shared with him that “the opioid epidemic is the No. 1 economic inhibitor in West Virginia.”

Hartiens said he and his team are looking to set up measures to observe the impact of the opioid epidemic in the area before the facility opens and to continue to monitor it after the facility opens. This will be done to gauge the impact the facility has had on the economic growth in the Berkeley County community.

The facility will also assist its patients in job training and job placement, as well as teaching life skills and personal responsibility for the patient’s own recovery. Hartiens explained that in teaching patients about “the basics, such as online banking, that we often take for granted” it will allow for businesses in the community to work with the facility and allow patients to become plugged into the community as well.

Hartiens said the facility would include a lot of recovery principles that are different from other similar facilities in the state. Hartiens said in order to accomplish that goal, he has created a well-informed advisory board comprised of a dozen members in variety of backgrounds and areas of the community to help guide and advise decisions made about the facility even in the early stages that it is in now.

While the facility aims to open in the summer, Hartiens said they are experiencing issues with funding as the facility is running 20 percent higher at a budget of $3.6 million, something that Hartiens said is due some to the aesthetic and design, which is more costly. However, Hartiens said he is looking at ways to cut costs in other areas or find additional funding sources such as grants so that the aesthetic and welcoming design will not have to be sacrificed.

Hartiens ended his presentation by sharing that the facility hopes to host a gala, or open house dinner, that will allow for the celebration of such a facility being brought to the Eastern Panhandle.

Hartiens also shared that the area would allow room for the future expansion of an additional 48 beds if the use of the facility and community demand indicates that that would be something worth investing in.

“Thank God you’re finally here,” councilwoman Elaine Mauck said. “We worked too hard trying to place people but now we are getting there.”