Every one of the founders of Harmony Life Center has been directly affected by addiction. Some have lost spouses. Some have lost friends. And some are in recovery themselves.
The group came together more than a year ago with the goal to help their community during one of the worst substance abuse epidemics in history. The result is a drop-in recovery center – the first of its kind in Washington County – where those who are addicted and their loved ones can receive support and guidance.
“Each one of us suffered losses,” said John Hopper, president of the board of directors. “(Addiction) is a family and community problem. We want to be a part of the solution.”
Board members, all volunteers who will be trained as peer counselors, contributed financially to get the center off the ground. An initial funding grant from Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission and a grant from the Washington County Community Foundation furthered their cause.
“We are all volunteers who have a passion for this,” said vice president Mike “MJ” Markley. “We believe in this.”
The nonprofit center, with a staff of peer coaches, will connect people to recovery services and provide 12-step recovery programs and meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. They plan to host classes, such as parenting skills seminars, develop programs to help with employment and housing services, and offer a lending library of recovery texts.
“People say there’s no place I can go that doesn’t involve drugs and alcohol,” said Hopper. “This is a safe place for everyone.”
Peer recovery coaches, who have been in active recovery for at least two years, provide support. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, peer support facilitates recovery and reduces health-care costs.
“Our goal is to save one life at a time,” said board member Jeff Sipos, who has worked with those in recovery for 25 years.
The center, located at 47 N. Main St., Washington, also will assist loved ones.
“Families have a lot of questions and need a lot of support,” said Hopper. “Families suffer along with them. They feel the shame. They feel judged.”
Sarah Robinson, whose husband died from an overdose, said families play a significant role in recovery success.
“We think education for those affected loved ones is the key to recovery,” she said.
Programs will be offered that develop eight dimensions of wellness, a tool used by SAMHSA that includes emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual wellness.
The center will be heavily staffed on evenings and weekends, times when most social services agencies are closed.
“When someone is ready (to recover), they’re ready now,” said board member Anne Wightman. “We’ve got to get to them right now.”
The center is adjacent to Harmony House Café and Paul Tripoli’s counseling office. The Rev. Tom Bellhy of New Hope Church in Canton Township started the cafe in 2016 with the goal of creating a gathering place for everyone.
“You can go to a lot of places where they have cafés that cater to people. Places where Christian counselors are sprinkled around, places where there’s an addiction recovery center. There’s no place that has them all,” said Bellhy. “Having them all helps people in recovery to attain a higher level of achievement.”
Harmony Life Center’s grand opening will be held Saturday, starting at 9:30 a.m., with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m.
For information, call 724-202-4052 or visit the Facebook page, “Harmony Life Center.”