PLEASANT VALLEY — Since its founding in 1969 as a small counseling center located in the basement of a university building, Valley HealthCare System has grown to serve individuals with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges and chemical dependency issues.

With a sharp rise in drug addiction fueled by the Appalachian opioid epidemic of recent years, though, Valley found its treatment facilities severely stretched.

On Wednesday morning, Morgantown-based Valley HealthCare System took a step toward addressing its challenges as it broke ground on a $7 million, three-building complex on a 9-acre site on Crosswind Drive that will significantly expand its residential substance abuse services.

“We currently have two programs that total about 20 beds and we’re going to expand both of those programs here on-site into 80 beds between men and women,” said Gerry Schmidt, the company’s chief operating officer.

Construction of the new facility will also increase the system’s many other capabilities and offerings.

“We’re going to be not only larger, but more diverse in terms of our treatment approach and length of stay. Right now, we treat patients in two different programs. One’s called the ACT unit, which is a more traditional 28-day program, and then there’s the New Beginnings program, which is an extended care program for women. Both of those programs will be expanded,” Schmidt said.

The new complex will make Valley HealthCare System among the larger behavioral health care providers in the area. Local administrative and treatment offices will move to the new facility.

“From a treatment standpoint, programs of this size and magnitude are unique to this area,” Schmidt said.

The size of Valley HealthCare System’s on-site staff will ultimately increase as well.

“Economically, we’ll have upwards of 50 new positions here. We’re hoping the spinoff job opportunities from it will be beneficial as well,” he said.

Schmidt said he envisions the new facility to be near-completion by mid-2021.

“We’re in the ground. We’re beginning to build. By winter, we’re hoping to have it under roof. And then as spring comes, we’ll be blooming into a new facility,” he said.

The new facility has been in the planning stages for nearly three years. The State of West Virginia provided initial grant funding. As the project’s vision expanded, Valley HealthCare System worked with Huntington Bank and, most recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provided a $4 million Community Facilities Direct Loan.

“With the substance abuse crisis across West Virginia, we need more facilities available for treatment. We’ve recognized the need for many years because there’s not been enough substance abuse treatment beds available across the state,” said Rev. Richard Bowyer, Valley HealthCare’s board president. “Ours has been such an effective program that we’ve had many demands on it. It’s primarily to expand our substance abuse treatment program, which has been a very effective program but for a limited number of people.”

Bowyer said the new facility will better serve women during recovery.

“It also enables our women’s recovery program, which was housed in a building not far from here but which had burned down. Its residents were forced to relocate into a local motel. This will provide an excellent facility for those women,” Bowyer said.

Kris Warner, the USDA’s state director for rural development, said the Community Facilities Direct Loan helps complete the funding needed for construction to begin.

“The USDA is working tirelessly to be a strong partner to rural West Virginia by building strong communities. It’s because we know Valley has been providing quality residential addiction treatment services across North Central West Virginia for decades. We know that when rural West Virginia thrives, all of America thrives,” Warner said.

Warner said the Valley HealthCare System loan is one of 17 different community facilities projects USDA has funded across the state and is the largest monetary award granted this year. Warner said USDA invested more than $462 million during 2019 in rural West Virginia development.

“This is a project that’s worthy of support. It’s an example of helping to build strong, healthy, and clean communities and it’s happening right here in Pleasant Valley. That’s what we do in rural development — we help the flow of capital to rural America and we’d like to think we’ve done that once again this morning with this announcement,” Warner said.

Warner offered praise for Valley HealthCare System’s mission.

“It’s residential facilities like this that make such an impact on West Virginia, facilities that ensure those in need have access to safe and reliable housing as they receive their healthcare treatment,” Warner said. “This is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to partner with Valley and we look forward to continuing to build upon this new partnership, as Valley continues to promote strong, healthy communities here in North Central West Virginia.”

The Thrasher Group of Bridgeport is providing architectural, engineering and field services for the new project. City Construction of Clarksburg will serve as general contractor on the project and expects to create 100 jobs between now and completion.

When complete, the facility will serve residents of Marion, Monongalia, Preston and Taylor County.

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