WVPA Sharing

Opinion: Beckley’s path to America’s first Inclusive Recovery City

By Jay Phillips, executive director and board president for Seed Sower Inc.

Reflecting on Beckley’s Historic Milestone and Its Impact on Community Healing

As I reflect on Beckley’s upcoming milestone of becoming the first Inclusive Recovery City (IRC) in the United States, I am overwhelmed, excited, and grateful. For years, communities across West Virginia have grappled with the devastating impact of substance use disorder (SUD), but through collective efforts, we are forging a new, shared path towards healing.

Beckley as a Beacon of Hope

In the heart of Appalachia, where the scars of substance use run deep, Beckley stands with hope and resilience. As the Executive Director of Seed Sower Inc., I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of community collaboration in addressing the root causes of SUD and providing support to those courageously rebuilding their lives.

Our journey towards becoming an IRC is, in part, a testament to curiosity. Exploring alternative paths to recovery is an endeavor shared by many of my peers. The journey is also a testament to collective action because it can’t be accomplished alone. From grassroots organizations to local government agencies, we’ve come together with a shared vision of creating a more inclusive, supportive, and effective environment where resources are amplified through collaboration.

Dr. David Best: A Champion of the IRC Movement

An advocate of inclusion, Dr. David Best conceived the model for the IRC program, drawing on his extensive experience as professor of Addiction Recovery at Leeds Trinity University and President of the Recovery Outcomes Institute as well as years of published research in recovery.

His efforts to support Seed Sower as America’s first IRC demonstrate his dedication to advancing recovery on a global scale. His travels from the UK to Beckley to sign the IRC charter on March 19, 2024, underscores the international significance of this designation.

Dispelling Misconceptions about IRCs

One common misconception about IRCs is that they require building more housing or adding new services. In reality, it’s about aspiring to maximize the potential of what we already have. At Seed Sower, our focus has always been on meeting the essential needs of our residents, from safe housing to transportation and peer support. By embracing the IRC model, we’re not reinventing the wheel. Instead, we are enhancing our impact by standing shoulder to shoulder with other individuals, organizations, and businesses that share our mission.

Inclusivity as a Way of Life

When you visit Beckley, you’ll notice more than just our charming streets. Embedded within the fabric of this community are the pillars of the IRC movement.

As you wander, you might find yourself drawn to the aromas wafting from the Fruits of Labor Café, a social enterprise and partner with Seed Sower. Here, you savor a fabulous meal, but also witness something truly special: women in the Seed Sower recovery program not only finding meaningful employment but nourishing their confidence and refining their culinary skills. These skills will earn them credentials from the Fruits of Labor curriculum which is certified by the prestigious American Culinary Federation. People once isolated by their struggles are now actively participating in and enriching our community.

Inspiring Change Beyond Beckley

I’m proud of Beckley’s IRC leadership and energized by its potential to inspire change statewide and nationally. West Virginia is often considered the epicenter of the opioid crisis. Through innovative programs such as this one, we aspire to become the epicenter of the solution and to inspire other communities.

A Final Thought

As we prepare to celebrate Beckley’s historic moment on March 19th, I’m feeling optimistic. I want to express gratitude to my staff, board, and our many partners in this endeavor who have contributed to Beckley’s journey towards becoming an IRC. It just feels right to be on this path together where our greatest strength lies in a commitment to build a brighter future for all.

Jay Phillips is the executive director and board president for Seed Sower Inc., in West Virginia. He believes: Recovery isn’t an “I” thing or a “you” thing.  It’s a “we” thing. It’s a community effort that leverages the collective strengths and talents of local and regional governments, community organizations, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and individuals to work together toward a future far less burdened by the destructive and pervasive nature of SUD. Recovery doesn’t happen inside of us. It happens between us.

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