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Serenity Hills Life Center To Soon Offer Long-Term Care in Wheeling

Recovery center in Wheeling a few weeks away from opening

Photo by Alex Meyer The exterior of the Serenity Hills Life Center for women recovering from drug addiction, located near Clearview on Stone and Shannon Road, offers 72 beds and will open June 3.

WHEELING — A new addiction recovery center, the largest facility of its kind in West Virginia, is now just a few weeks away from opening.

The Serenity Hills Life Center, located on 149 acres of land near Clearview, will provide long-term care to women recovering from drug addiction in the Ohio Valley and across the state.

The center is set to officially open June 3 with a public ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 31.

“We’re going to offer a state-of-the-art facility that usually only wealthy people can go to, but this is for everyone,” said Sharon Travis, executive director of the center. “Everyone’s going to be able to get really great quality care with different options.”

The facility will offer long-term care to women in various stages of recovery from substance abuse through a 42,000 square-foot main facility with 72 beds. Residents will have access to a variety of services and support systems to help them recover over an 18-month period, Travis said.

“The reason that we did all this was to help people with drug addiction, because there are not enough beds in the state,” she said. “In order to get the treatment you need, you need long-term care.”

Many overdose victims receive initial treatment but, due to a lack of beds, end up on the street again shortly after with no support systems, Travis explained. So far this year, 56 overdoses have occurred in Wheeling with several overdose-related deaths, according to the Wheeling Police Department.

Serenity Hills will offer a “step-down” program with three different phases of care, including helping women coming out of detox, offering care for as long as needed afterward and providing a halfway house to help people transition, Travis said.

The center was made possible through a $3 million grant from the state Department of Health and Human Resources in December 2017 and a $2.9 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May 2018.

Before launching Serenity Hills, Travis ran a volunteer-based addiction program called Heart 2 Heart Volunteers, where she first realized the need for long-term care. She found out that the former Paul VI Pastoral Center, a retreat for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, was available and worked “day and night” applying for the grant.

Travis said a “perfect storm” allowed her and others to receive the funding to make the center a reality. In the past year, she and staff have worked to renovate and prepare the facility for residents.

“It did take longer than expected, but we are so excited to be able to offer something so amazing for the community. It’s surreal,” Travis said. “This (facility) is perfect for what we’re offering. A lot of these places are in the middle of town, but this is a place that offers such a beautiful, serene place to heal.”

The property includes 15 miles of walking trails, and the center plans to build an activity center on the premises as well, Travis said.

The center’s main building features two wings with bedrooms, large meeting spaces, a kitchen, a gym, a classroom, offices and medical space. A house with 10 additional beds that will be available for pregnant women also lies on the property.

Mental health technicians and a variety of other staff will be on hand at the center to help residents, John Antal, clinical director, said at the center on Friday. Antal will oversee programming for residents and supervise the technicians.

Jodi Miller, nurse practitioner at the center, said she will be responsible for helping residents’ with their health needs, monitoring their progress and connecting them to proper resources.

“It’s exciting to be a part of a program that can help our community in such a positive way,” Miller said. “There is a big need in our valley that demands a community effort to help minimize the impact that drugs can have on individuals and their families.”

The center also employs peer specialists, former addicts who help connect overdose victims to various resources and get them help. The “peers” have worked with the Wheeling Police Department since February to assist overdose victims in cases that officers handle.

In addition, residents at the center will be able to receive education and work training as well as participate in spiritual classes and health and wellness classes.

For now, the center is focusing on helping women, as women and pregnant mothers have the biggest gap in treatment in West Virginia, Travis said. She hopes to eventually open a facility for men on the property.

The center is prioritizing care for veterans, pregnant women, postpartum women and mothers who were separated from their children, she added.

Travis also said the center is accepting in-kind donations, such as toiletries and self-help books, to help residents as well as donations to fund scholarships for residents without insurance. Donations can be sent to the center’s address, 667 Stone & Shannon Road, or made online at its temporary fundraising website, serenityhillslifecenter.org.

“You have a group of very passionate, dedicated people who are there for the right reasons,” Travis said of the center’s staff. “It’s really a beautiful place. We’re just so happy.”

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