Jobs and Hope WV Changing, Saving Lives
MOUNDSVILLE — A man gave a moving testimony last week to the positive effect that Jobs and Hope WV has had on him – it literally saved his life.
At Tuesday evening’s city council meeting in Moundsville, David Gorby addressed council to extol the virtues of the program and how it helped him turn his life around. Council member Sara Wood, who was present Tuesday, is the transition agent for Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties.
Gorby said he had struggled with addiction for 21 years, since he was 13. As of Wednesday, Gorby said he was nine months clean, which garnered a round of applause from the audience. He recounted the steps of his recovery – including overdosing 19 times across 2019 – and how he hopes that others like him will come join the program to turn their lives around.
“I knew how to quit, I didn’t know how to stay clean,” Gorby said. “Quitting’s no problem, I’d do it for a day or two, but then it just overtakes you. They put me into detox immediately, at Harmony Ridge. I got out of Harmony Ridge after 55 days, and I did relapse. But I had that seed planted.”
After his relapse, Gorby recounted his detox at the St. Joseph Recovery Center in Parkersburg, and his ongoing parole, which he remains on until March. He elaborated that through the program, he has a number of tools to assist with his recovery, and that he now knows how to properly express himself to others, which has been a key facet of his recovery.
Since then, Gorby said he’s on the fast track to becoming “a productive member of society,” as he now has a job with Warren Distribution, where he’s gotten two pay raises and a promotion in the five months he’s worked there. Gorby added that, through the program, he’s reconnected with his estranged family for the first time in 10 years.
“I know now how to express my emotions, understand my emotions, feel my emotions, instead of trying to numb them out by getting high,” he said. “I have a great relationship with my family, my mom and dad are my best friends. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
He particularly celebrated Wood, whose intervention, as part of Jobs and Hope WV, helped save his life.
“I would not be where I’m at right now, if it weren’t for that (Quick Response Team) and the compassionate people. I hope this is something that takes off in this county — the sad part is that a lot of people will never get the opportunity to be where I’m at.
“I’m not talking about standing here, talking to you guys,” Gorby told the council and audience. “I’m talking about living a drug-free life, free of drugs and alcohol. That’s a big step for me, with 21 years of drug addiction. I’ve one time in the last nine months thought about getting high, and 30 seconds later, the thought was gone. I couldn’t do that for two hours, let alone nine months.”
Gorby asked for those who heard him to adopt a compassionate stance. A common mentality among some people, he said, is that the use of Narcan, or naloxone, to reverse opioid overdoses is detrimental, and encourages its repeat use. Gorby instead asked people to consider the value of life, and that even someone who suffers repeated overdoses can change, as he had.
“I’ve been hearing a lot of negative stuff about how Narcan is used for people who have overdosed. I can step back now and see the whole picture, and I understand where some of these EMT’s are coming from about how difficult it is to show up to the scene and continuously Narcan the same person over and over … again. Now they’re not doing it, and they’re just bagging them, causing brain damage, lung problems. I feel like they’re saying that life doesn’t matter.
“If it wasn’t for Narcan, and people caring, I wouldn’t be here right now,” he said. “I’d be dead. In 2019, I overdosed fatally 19 times. … That’s where addiction takes you. For someone who’s never been down that road, they’ll never understand. I accept that. … But I believe that all lives matter, and that’s why I’m here doing this. This is something really important to me.”
Gorby concluded by adding that, with Wood’s help, he is a certified recovery and life coach, and is certified to carry naloxone, which he does, and has found reason to use.
“You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been in accidental places, like a gas station, and someone’s overdosing in the bathroom, not able to breathe until the EMT gets there. I’ve been able to hit them with Narcan and they’re breathing, they’ll have a pulse. That stuff matters,” he said. “Even if they go out and get high two hours later, that Narcan was an opportunity for the seed to be planted in their head and change their minds.”
Wood said that Gorby was her first graduate from the program, and that since meeting him at the Four Seasons Pool, he’s been an active, enthusiastic member of the community.
“That’s why I’m so adamant about bringing substance abuse up all the time, because I get to see the changes every single day,” Wood later told council. “I get to see the success stories and work with the individuals who have changed their life.”
Jobs and Hope WV is a career development program that was introduced by Governor Justice and the WV Legislature in 2019. Jobs and Hope agents work with individuals that are in recovery, justice-involved, or have barriers to education, training, and career employment. Jobs & Hope has established a variety of state-wide partnerships to assist in eliminating some of the most common barriers that participants face when working toward career employment. This program is available in every county.
These partnerships can assist with transportation, free education/training, dental and vision services, childcare, DMV assistance including driver’s license reinstatement, Legal Aid WV services including assistance with expungement and other legal barriers, peer recovery support services, and more.
Statewide, 2,298 participants have been enrolled in the program, 1,143 are employed through the program, and 161, like Gorby, have graduated since it began in 2019.
Wood started working as a transition agent at the end of November, and in that time has had 112 referrals, and is actively working with around 50 individuals.
Anyone interested can self-refer to Jobs and Hope by calling a local transition agent. Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler county residents may contact Wood at 304-962-7355 or email@example.com, while Brooke, Hancock and Ohio County residents may contact Kelly Pizzoferrato at 304-730-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants must meet eligibility requirements, which include being a W.Va. resident, 18 years or older, committed to recovery, negative drug screenings, self-identifying as being ready for career or job placement, and facing a barrier to employment.
“I believe that to continue to develop our communities and state, we need to support our residents. I have the privilege of being part of this development daily by working with Jobs & Hope WV participants, like Mr. Gorby, to reduce their barriers to education, training, and gainful employment. Jobs and Hope WV is supporting participants on their recovery journey and contributing to the development of a skilled group of participants ready to enter the workforce in our state,” Wood said.