Neil McLaughlin

Alleviating an epidemic

Originally published in The Journal

It seems that just about everyone has been impacted by someone battling substance abuse or addiction. Although treatment options exist, limited resources make access challenging, and few treatment facilities seem to assert continued success.

However, it appears that West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle has been fortunate in welcoming the non-profit organization, Semper Liberi (SL), which aims to empower those seeking treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) to live with freedom and purpose.

Semper Li actively collaborates with the Mountaineer Recovery Center (MRC) and the organization’s patients who are being discharged from their residential substance abuse treatment program. The organization’s efforts include focusing on vocational rehabilitation, stable and suitable housing, and transportation to and from work, medical appointments, or other appointments critical to managing early recovery such as court appearances or trips to the DMV or local Social Security Office. Without the resources and continuum of care that Semper Li and MRC offer, the number of those suffering from addiction will only continue to rise and the state of West Virginia will continue to incur the economic burden of his epidemic.

The numbers make the case. A 2019 report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy found that the Mountain State experienced $11.3 billion in economic damages linked to substance use disorder: amounting to roughly 15% of the state’s GDP. These figures are daunting however, this year Semper Liberi and Mountaineer Recovery Center both stand poised for expansion and look to reach more individuals than ever before!

Semper Liberi opened West Virginia’s soon to be first state-certified addiction recovery home, The Ashley House, in Kearneysville in late 2020 in conjunction with MRC. The communal living-style design is completely backed by evidence-based research which is deemed as paramount to recovery of those suffering with SUD. In fact, studies show that 50% of those who complete residential treatment relapse within the first ninety days of discharge. Without Semper Li bridging the gap between treatment and sustained sobriety, Mountaineer Recovery Center’s continuum in care may not be fulfilled.

The presence of Semper Liberi and Mountaineer Recovery Center is crucial for taming our state’s substantial opioid crisis while curbing its economic contributions. The U.S. Government estimates that for every dollar spent on substance abuse services, twelve dollars are saved. The journey of recovery is not a quick or easy endeavor, but with substantial resources, West Virginia’s addiction epidemic is destined to be alleviated.

— Neil McLaughlin is the board president of Semper Liberi. He lives in Martinsburg.