HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Recovery Point West Virginia held its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for The Point Cafe, Huntington’s newest community resource center, on Thursday.
The Point Cafe opened at 630 8th Ave. in Huntington after a few years of planning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reginald Jones, Recovery Point’s executive director, said they originally applied for a grant in 2019 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to fund the cafe at a different location, but a “year of unavailability” led to the project coming to fruition later than expected.
Now that the cafe is open, Jones said the location will be a safe space and a free, therapeutic environment for anyone seeking recovery to find resources, make connections and join support groups. The cafe will offer a variety of workshops and classes, including art and yoga.
He said the cafe will also be a resource for the greater community of Huntington by holding cooking, financial literacy and computer courses, barista training and resume building assistance, among other services.
“The idea came to us as an organization, Recovery Point, from looking at what the needs are of the community and trying to find a niche to fill those gaps,” Jones said.
The Recovery Cafe is a national model that originated in Seattle, Washington, which has grown into a network for providing community support in safe and alcohol- and drug-free spaces. The model encourages recovery by offering emotional support, sharing practical knowledge, providing assistance to complete tasks and facilitating contacts to instill a “sense of belonging,” according to the Recovery Cafe Network website.
This is the first cafe in West Virginia.
Jones said the cafe is fully staffed with a director, peer recovery support specialists and a case manager and will provide additional therapy and counseling.
The opening ceremony was attended by Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, who helped Jones cut the ribbon to the cafe, as well as Point Cafe director David Allen, director of the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy Matthew Christiansen and director of the Mayor’s Council on Public Health and Drug Control Policy Jan Rader, among many Recovery Point and community members.
Allen said the cafe model relies on a membership structure that requires having 24 hours of sobriety, participation in at least one recovery circle per week and eventually finding a way to give back to the cafe. Anyone in need of the cafe’s resources is welcome, regardless of whether or not they have been to Recovery Point.
“Point Cafe is a free-standing community without a formal treatment component,” Allen said. “This allows the cafe to welcome a person who is either unable or hesitant to engage in the treatment system. Our members have opportunities to build on job skills, hobbies and positive relationships.”
Williams — who expressed his “disappointment” over the outcome of the City of Huntington and Cabell County’s opioid lawsuit against major U.S. drug distributors, which was announced earlier this week on Independence Day — spoke to members of Recovery Point directly by saying, “While you’re in recovery, this is a city that’s in recovery as well, a state that’s in recovery and, if we’re going to be honest, a nation that’s in recovery — and we’re able to live and move forward by your example.”
Christiansen said Huntington is a prime example of the way to address substance use disorder and bring communities together. He noted that the nation struggled at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with a rise in overdose deaths due to an increase in fentanyl in the drug supply, but particularly because of restricted access to recovery programs like the cafe.
“We weren’t able to have that one-on-one connection. We weren’t able to sit across from someone and be held accountable, face-to-face with another human being, because COVID took that from us,” Christiansen said.
Since then, Christiansen said the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy has expanded quick response teams to more than 38 counties across the state and law enforcement-assisted diversion programs to more than half the counties in West Virginia. He also said there will be a “Save a Life Day” in almost every county in West Virginia on Sept. 8, and there are now more people in the state who are in recovery than ever.
Christiansen said if the state can keep people with severe addiction alive and engaged in treatment and recovery services, more than 75% of people will eventually find their path to recovery.
“Much of that is through the work of programs like the Point. It’s through the work of the stories that you all have, going to the brink, going to a very deep, dark place and coming back and bringing the light back and sharing that light with others,” he said.
Rader said the safe space the cafe provides is an example of why Huntington has become the “city of solutions” in the opioid epidemic.
“There are many barriers for individuals suffering from substance use disorder, not only in seeking treatment for that, but there are also triggers that can drive them back into addiction,” she said.
“We have accomplished so much in this community. We have filled many gaps, but there are so many gaps left. The Point will fill one of those gaps. I think it’s a wonderful, innovative program, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this establishment is going to save many, many lives.”
For more information about the Point Cafe, visit the Point Cafe Facebook page.