Athens County's first recovery community organization site opens

Published: May 3, 2022 Author: Staff reports

A new center designed to create a safe gathering space for people in recovery in Athens County opened Friday, the first of multiple spaces to come in southeast Ohio to help those with substance use disorder build skills that will help them find and keep meaningful employment.

Ohio University, Hocking College and the Hocking College Makerspace partnered to open the South East Ohio Hope Center: Recovery Community Organization (RCO) space. The space will be available for support services, including skills development, peer support and access to community health workers. Ohio University is partnering with other organizations across southeast Ohio to expand access to recovery-friendly job trainings and support services. 

RCOs are independent, non-profit organizations that are led by people who are part of the recovery community — those in long-term recovery, their families, friends and allies, to include recovery-focused addiction and recovery professionals.

“RCOs are driven by people who understand the challenges of addiction and the beauty of recovery, and this space will help ensure that those people have a safe space to convene, connect people with services, and support those in early recovery,” said Cale Burke, senior project manager at Ohio University’s George Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service. Burke, who founded an Athens-based RCO, is responsible for coaching and supporting entrepreneurs in recovery from substance use disorder.

The space, and the services it will help facilitate, is funded through the INSPIRE initiative, a program of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). INSPIRE — Investments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems — provides funding that helps people transition from treatment to recovery to employment, with a focus on support services that enable and support individual successful entry or reentry into the workforce. The funding and the programs it supports are designed to develop post-acute recovery services throughout the region for people with substance use disorder.

Ohio University was awarded $500,000 from the ARC in late 2021 to create paths for individuals in recovery to obtain soft and hard skills that will help them gain and maintain meaningful employment. Hocking College is a key partner, has donated space for the RCO and is integrating programming through its Visual Arts Center makerspace. South East Ohio Hope RCO will   connect those in recovery with all the services of a recovery community organization. This space is the first to open in southeast Ohio under the new funding; the university is partnering with other local  communities to create similar recovery organizations in Hocking, Perry, Washington and Scioto counties.

Ohio University’s George Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service is providing training and technical assistance to makerspaces and businesses associated with the RCO, and will offer free consultation to individual participants who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs.

Approximately 40 other businesses and organizations across Athens and Perry counties will also be involved in the RCO efforts, providing training and technical assistance designed to support recovery-friendly workplaces.