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(01/16/2011) - Editorial: Healing Place provides
path back from addiction

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Editorial: Healing Place provides path back from addiction

January 16, 2011 @ 10:35 PM

When an Internet video surfaced a week ago of a velvet-voiced homeless man in Columbus, Ohio, there was a national outpouring of support.

All Ted Williams needed was a break. Several companies offered him jobs as an announcer, and the "Today Show" flew him to New York for the first of a number of television appearances. With a shave and haircut, he would put years of alcoholism and life on the street behind him, just like that.

But a few days later, Williams' new life ran off track as family members say he began drinking again. His old life also haunted him, as Ohio authorities issued a subpoena for him as a witness in a drug case. By Tuesday, he had checked into a rehabilitation program in California.

We wish him the best. His talents and personality have helped put a face on the problems of chronic homelessness.

But his 15-minutes-of-fame story is a reminder there are few simple solutions when it comes to addiction. Particularly for those who have fallen into Williams' world, the road back requires treatment, time and hard work.

Fortunately for men on the streets of the Tri-State, there is a new opportunity to take that better path.

The Healing Place of Huntington opened its doors on Monday at 2425 9th Ave. Modeled after a successful program in Louisville, it will provide long-term residential treatment for alcohol and drug addictions. The first four clients are all local men who have struggled with homelessness and substance abuse.

The program hopes to gradually add up to 10 men by the end of next week. The facility can eventually accommodate 26 people, with plans to expand further and add a program for women as well. That will be a huge improvement for the Tri-State and the state of West Virginia, which currently has only 275 beds for long-term substance abuse treatment.

Studies indicate about 2 percent of the West Virginia adult population has a problem with drugs that needs treatment, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That would be about 4,000 people in the Tri-State and 28,000 in West Virginia. So, the added treatment is much needed.

The Healing Place program also reintroduces structure and responsibility into the lives of these men.

"When you go into treatment, you haven't been dependable or reliable. You probably owe some type of retribution somewhere -- child support, legal fees, court fines," said Clyde Harper, director of replication for the center. "It's about accountability here and loving your brother to life, not to death."

Many businesses, organizations and individuals already have provided financial and in-kind support for The Healing Place. But the center also will need ongoing contributions to operate.

As the Ted Williams story shows, we all like the idea of a quick fix for these problems. But a steady, sustained effort is what is really required.

It has taken about four years of planning and fundraising to open the doors at The Healing Place, and we hope the community will provide the backing to keep it going for years to come.

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