Spotlight: Huntington Addiction and Wellness Center

The Huntington Addiction and Wellness Center (HAWC) assistant director, Sean Presgraves, discussed issues surrounding homelessness, addiction and what students can do regarding them on Monday night. 

Presgraves talked about the Center’s new rehabilitation program and what students can do to help while also shining a light on the importance of community outreach and harm reduction. 

“It is important to meet people where they are at, in terms of recovery. A lot of people who are in active addiction might not be in a place where they are ready to go full abstinence. For a lot of people that’s not even in their idea,” Presgraves said.

“As far as needle exchange, in terms of harm reduction if a person is still using, I would like to take every effort and make sure they being as safe as humanly possible, so that they are not contracting and spreading diseases. So that when they get to a place when they are ready to come into treatment, they’re physically healthy enough that they have a life to live successfully,” Presgraves said.

HAWC’s mission is to improve the quality of life for every individual struggling with substance abuse disorder. The program offers the option for people to choose abstinence or medical aid using Vivitrol and Suboxone. According to Presgraves, 70% of those who come into the program choose abstinence over Vivitrol or Suboxone. 

“In the last two years, I’ve lost probably 30 friends,” Presgraves said. “I would say if they had been on Suboxone or Vivitrol, they’d still be here and have an opportunity to be in recovery.” 

Once someone completes the program, HAWC  hires them directly onto the company. This is not only a way Presgraves said their program stands out, but also a way to encourage their former clients to have careers and hopefully not relapse.

 “So often people get sober, they stop using drugs and alcohol, and they find themselves working remedial jobs that they may or may not like at all, and inevitably they find themselves relapsing. What we have determined is vital part of long-term sobriety is finding a career to immerse yourself in and wake up everyday visualizing goals,” Presgraves said.

HAWC also focuses heavily on the mental health aspect of addiction and recovery. Presgraves said they have doctors, counselors and specialists who assist within HAWC. 

Since opening in April, HAWC has shown major success in Huntington. According to their website, they currently have saved $840,000 in medical and prison expenses and have already had 49 successes. 

“We started with one facility on 5th Avenue in Huntington, and we have now purchased three more building and have turned them into phase two transitional housing for our men and women,” Presgraves said.  

Beyond mental health, HAWC has also worked to help people get IDs, birth certificates, GED, certificates of trade, and a promised career path directly after leaving HAWC. 

“We also believe in getting people back into society,” Presgraves said, “We have case management here, that does a phenomenal job of getting people birth certificates, social security cards, legal IDs, and we have classes for GED and all that kind of stuff.” 

Presgraves said the program pays for all of that in efforts to show how important it is to not only get sober but also into the light of reality and the community.   

“We have the ability to see how things actually work and it’s nothing like what people suggest,” he said. “We are approaching recovery in a completely different way, and it’s wildly successful to see people recovering the way they are here.” 

HAWC has worked with Harmony House in the first couple months of opening and helped house the homeless, according to Presgraves.  

“What was beautiful was we had a month of time to work within the homeless population and talk to them about recovery. We have 80% of those people housed and entering the program because of it,” he said. 

Presgraves said they would love to for students to become volunteers. “We have people here who volunteer to do classes like art therapy and things like that and basically what it comes down to, if your heart is in the right place for helping people, you know, there’s always something someone can do. We really appreciate seeing the community come together because addiction has touched everybody’s lives, if not individually, then someone in the family or a friend,” he said

For students who want to help at HAWC contact Katy Keeny, Community Engagement Specialist, at [email protected] 

Sequoia Ware can be contacted at [email protected]