By Katie Hinerman Klug, Catholic Charities West Virginia Marketing Communications Specialist
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect West Virginians, individuals who are in recovery from substance use disorder are having a disproportionately difficult time. Disruption of community support group meetings, loss of work, illness and other factors can stress a person’s ability to maintain recovery.
“Life is hard and there are so many challenges and obstacles,” said Keythan Heater, a resident of Huntington, WV. “Having to do it sober is so much harder.”
In March of 2020, Heater enrolled in a Computer Essentials course at Catholic Charities Community Center for Learning and Advancement (CCLA). At the time, he was residing in a sober living house in Huntington.
Catholic Charities and Jobs and Hope are really changing how people face recovery. – Keythan Heater
“We know that education and meaningful employment are so important for recovery,” said Bill Hagy, Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa) Western Regional Director. “During the pandemic, we’ve had to pivot to virtual classes and appointments at times, but we have never stopped providing services.”
In Huntington, CCWVa provides adult education as well as wraparound case management services to help individuals achieve their goals by identifying their strengths and finding ways to overcome obstacles.
For Heater, these obstacles included lost income, as he was laid off from his restaurant job due to COVID-19. He also struggled with stable housing, transportation, and resources to continue his studies.
CCWVa Recovery Retention Case Manager Sherri Sloan worked closely with Heater to overcome these barriers.
“During this entire time I stayed sober and did not relapse even though I wanted to, at times, because of the stress that life was dealing me,” said Heater. “It was unbearable, yet Sherri was there each step of the journey.”
With the help of CCWVa and the Jobs and Hope West Virginia program, Heater was able to secure housing, a car, a computer, and a lucrative job through GrubHub.
The Jobs and Hope West Virginia program was uniquely helpful for Heater, as his transition agent was able to assist with reinstating his driver’s license as well as authenticating his continued sobriety with the court system.
Jobs and Hope West Virginia, funded through West Virginia Department of Education, is the state’s comprehensive response to the substance use disorder crisis. CCWVa has partnered with the program since its inception.
“Jobs and Hope West Virginia offers West Virginians recovering from Substance Use Disorder comprehensive support, through a statewide collaboration of agencies, aimed at eliminating barriers and creating pathways to career employment,” said Sara Lindsay, CCWVa Chief Program Officer.
CCWVa works with Jobs and Hope West Virginia participants throughout the state.
“Without them I honestly don’t believe that I could’ve ventured so far in accomplishing what I have,” said Heater. “I am proof that Catholic Charities and Jobs and Hope stand behind their mission.”
Heater continues to maintain his sobriety and is thriving as an independent delivery driver while continuing to work toward his long-term goals.