by Trish Rudder
Lotus Recovery Centers, a subsidiary of Lotus Healthcare Group, has officially purchased the old schoolhouse on Green Street in Berkeley Springs to provide treatment for opioid addiction.
At a price of $200,000, and an estimated cost of $3 million for renovations, the building is to be converted into a residential drug treatment center.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced the sale on May 12 through a virtual press conference that can be viewed on his website.
“This wonderful group – Lotus – what they’re doing and how they’re stepping up with this announcement today is really special,” Gov. Justice said. “I am so proud of the work they’re doing.”
“You know, this terrible drug epidemic has almost cannibalized us in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice continued. “We’ve got so many people that are really hurting. If we can someway, somehow bring them back to the lives that they had before they went down this path, what an incredible accomplishment that would be. We need them back, that’s just all there is to it,” Gov. Justice said.
The three-story, 30,000-square-foot building is expected to have a capacity of nearly 100 patients for 30-to-60-day stays.
Lotus said the Berkeley Springs facility will “provide them with all levels of care, including detox and stabilization services, as well as other evidence-based treatment, psychiatric treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions, and strategies that have been proven to lead to long-term recovery.”
Lotus expects to hire people to fill about 60 positions with an average salary of $55,000, company officials said, and the required construction could bring additional jobs to Morgan County.
When asked what Morgan Countians can do now to prepare for a job at the facility, David Stup, chief marketing officer for Lotus Recovery Centers said,
“I’d encourage anyone who is interested in a position with us to reach out to us directly so we can discuss what, if any, training needs they may have.”
Stup also said Lotus is interested in partnering with Blue Ridge Community & Technical College to become an employer that can accept current students or recent graduates, “as well as have the opportunity to connect individuals coming out of our facility with training and workforce development.”
Stup said the old schoolhouse on Green Street is a historical building and renovation work will undergo an extensive planning process which will take between four and six months.
“The planning process has already begun,” he said.
Because the building has historical value, Stup said they are being guided by state and federa
l historical preservation agencies and will need agency approval regarding the renovations.
The building is located inside the Town of Bath, so town officials will have to approve building plans and issue permits before work can begin.
Stup said the renovations could take between six and nine months more, and the company “aspires” to be open around mid-2022.
Opioid deaths up 40 percent
Stup said on Friday that opioid deaths in the United States over the last twelve months are the highest on record, and West Virginia had a 40 percent increase of opioid deaths over the last 12 months.
Melody Stotler, executive director of Life or Drugs, Tri-State Support, said the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in people with needs in Morgan County.
The majority of child abuse and neglect cases locally are drug-related, she said.
“The cases are of a more serious nature,” Stotler said.
When asked if the recovery center would prioritize Morgan County, Stup said the Lotus Recovery Center in Berkeley Springs will operate on a first come-first served basis and will offer care to residents in Morgan County as well as other counties, Stup said.
“People from other counties will be served,” Stup said.
Patients will receive a case manager who will tailor treatment and resources to their needs and their success after being discharged.
With 24/7 admissions and the acceptance of all insurance providers – including Medicaid – Lotus officials say they hope to help alleviate the impact of the substance use crisis gripping the state.
“Our mission at Lotus is to improve the lives of patients, their families and communities through quality evidence-based treatment delivered by medical professionals who are deeply invested in each patient’s recovery and well-being,” said Ryan Collison, CEO of Lotus Recovery Centers.
“By administering treatment that encompasses substance use, mental health and primary care for the individual, patients and communities-at-large will see extraordinary benefit in many aspects.
“As we’ve seen over the past year, addiction is affecting an astonishing amount of people,” Collison continued. “A different, more robust approach to substance use disorder is needed, and Lotus Recovery Centers is at the forefront of bettering the way the disease is treated.”
EDA steered process to the sale
The Morgan County Economic Development Authority (EDA) board approved the $200,000 sale with Lotus in late September last year with changes. The board set stipulations that the former school building and 3.2 acre parcel of land could not be used as an outpatient drug treatment center, and Lotus wouldn’t operate a methadone or suboxone clinic on the property.
Owned by the Morgan County Commission, the old school property has been for sale for several years.
It previously housed multiple county service agencies, from the Senior Center to Starting Points Family Resource Center, the Morgan County Health Department and the Boys & Girls Club.
The Morgan County EDA, along with former executive director Daryl Cowles, “have been working for more than three years to redevelop the old Bath High school building and property, so we’re excited that it’s coming to fruition,” said new EDA executive director Lyn Goodwin.
“We see the purchase of the property by Lotus Recovery Centers for a new inpatient treatment center as a win for Morgan County and the entire community,” she said, in the press release.
Along with Berkeley Springs, Gov. Justice announced that Lotus Recovery Centers is opening a drug treatment facility in the former Comfort Inn in the town of Comfort in Boone County.
Lotus is in the process of converting that 13,000-square-foot hotel into a full-service residential treatment center that will operate in an identical manner to the facility at the old Bath High School. It is expected to open and begin treating its first patients by July, according to the press release.