Preston Commission endorses putting sober living house for mothers in county

KINGWOOD —  The Preston County Commission endorsed a proposal Monday to establish a sober living facility for mothers in Preston County.

Debra Athey and Christopher Grant told commissioners the home is still in the planning stage, and support, financial and otherwise, will be needed. Their plan is to be able to serve about 10 mothers at a time initially.

“Robin’s Nest is a sober living program for mothers involved with the child welfare system through DHHR [Department of Health and Human Resources],” she said.

Both Athey and Grant said they are recovering addicts. She is a former special education teacher who worked with the DHHR  and recently with the Child Advocacy Center. He has a master’s degree in statistics from WVU.

“The drug epidemic has affected a lot of families, particularly mothers,” statewide, Grant said.

The state reported a record number of child welfare cases in 2017, Grant noted. He presented DHHR data showing that the number of children removed from their homes due to drugs went from 970 in 2006 to 2,171 in 2016.

Nationally, about 7 percent of women who enter addiction treatment have children, he said. Those children are at increased risk of developmental issues.

“Robin’s Nest Fellowship is our attempt at a solution,” Grant said.

It is named after Robin R., a woman in recovery in Monongalia County who has helped a lot of women.

Robin’s Nest is envisioned as a residential program, linking mothers to providers in the community, so that they continue to work with the same providers after leaving. That could include therapy providers, the school  their children attend and others.

They want to work with mothers from Preston and Monongalia counties, but hope to locate in Preston.

One of their goals is to reunite families. Research shows that, “kids do better when they can grow up with their biological parents, as long as the safety issues can be controlled,” Athey said.

She and Grant  are looking for a house with a lot of bedrooms or other building for the facility. One building under consideration is the former Olympia Center, a former youth drug treatment center, Athey said.

Commissioner Dave Price suggested talking to DHHR about Hopemont as a location.

The pair also asked commissioners for any input they and the community may have.

Price said churches also might be able to help. Commissioner Don Smith said church members may also be able to help with furnishings for the home or suggestions for a location.

“It just tickles me you want to put together something in Preston County,” said Commission President Craig Jennings. “A lot of times counties around us partner with us because our numbers are attractive but want to keep everything in their hometown.”

In other discussions Monday, Robin Schooley, vice president and senior trust officer with WesBanco, presented the final settlement of the Dolores Ryan estate. As previously reported, Ryan, 77, a retired school teacher, left her estate to the Preston Animal Shelter when she died Dec. 20, 2017.

Schooley said in addition to Ryan’s house at 103 Oak St., Kingwood, appraised for $47,000, the estate includes $292,809.94 cash. Jennings said the bequest is, “certainly appreciated.” Schooley asked if the commission plans to invest the money to produce funds each year for the shelter?

“I know that was our preliminary thing that it would just keep helping the shelter out for years and years and years is what her intent was with this,” Commissioner Smith said.

Price said he isn’t sure government entities can do that type of investment. Schooley provided some information on how some agencies have arranged these types of investments. Commissioners said the prosecutor will have to advise them.

Schooley estimated the annual earnings on an account about this size would be $4,000-$6,000. If the property were sold, it too is to benefit the shelter.

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