Berea City Hall

Andy McDonald

The Berea City Council heard a proposal Tuesday to create a men’s substance abuse rehabilitation center in Richmond, currently a joint venture between the city of Richmond and the Madison County Fiscal Court. Madison County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor and Richmond City Manager Ron Minerich told Berea officials there is still time for the city to support the project.

The city of Richmond and the Madison County Fiscal Court have each pledged $1.5 million in funding for the center, which is currently estimated to cost $6.2 million. Grayson Evans from the Blue Grass Area Development District said his agency may provide an additional $150,000 to $200,000 in what he said was a unique opportunity for the local governments to join forces to fight the drug abuse epidemic.

The city of Berea, meanwhile, is projected to receive between $500,000 and $700,000 in opioid settlement money, according to Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley. The funds must be used specifically for drug rehabilitation, recovery, prevention or education.

Madison County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor addressed the council, stating the drug abuse epidemic is a problem that goes beyond government boundaries.

“I have to say that this drug epidemic is one of the biggest scourges that we’ve ever seen hit our communities,” Taylor said, adding the problem affects families, employers, and has become a burden on taxpayers. “Ultimately, we’re paying for it one way or another. So, to invest in potential solutions is what I’m all about as an elected leader of Madison County. I think investing in people is the best chance we have in overcoming this drug epidemic, but we’re not going to do it by not having opportunities for them to become taxpayers themselves.”

The city of Richmond has placed a buy option a property to house the program, according to Richmond City Manager Rob Minerich. He added the facility would be located in an existing building, would be operated by New Vista, and would house approximately 40 beds.

Richmond and Madison are applying for an Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant from the Economic Development Administration, hoping the combined funds from the two governments will be enough for a matching grant from the federal agency.

Berea Police Department Community Services Coordinator Zinnia Hensley noted the city also has options to use opioid settlement funds to support the efforts of local programs, such as those that directly support the families of those affected by drug addiction, organizations that support women in recovery, such as the New Opportunity School for Women, faith-based programs, as well as law enforcement prevention and training programs.

While Berea officials are considering their options, Judge Taylor urged officials to see the problem as one that impacts the region, not just individual governments.

“This drug epidemic does not discriminate. It doesn’t stop at the Richmond/Berea/Madison County line,” Taylor said. “I’m very excited about the opportunity of us doing this together as a community. It’s not a Berea problem. It’s not a Richmond problem. It’s not a Madison County problem. It’s not a law enforcement problem. It is a community problem.”

Representatives from New Vista explained the center would operate a 28-day recovery program that would be comprehensive, even helping patients get employment after treatment, and serving patients on an out-patient basis. It could also function as way in which drug offenders could be diverted from the criminal justice system, receiving training instead of incarceration.

In response to a question from Berea City Councilman Jim Davis, Andrea Bruhn, New Vista’s Regional Director Substance Abuse Services, cautioned that while the program continues to work on improving its retention rate, drug addiction is an especially difficult problem to tackle. Overall, 85 percent of patients relapse at some time on their journey to recovery, Bruhn said.

The next step will be to see whether Richmond and Madison County receive matching grant funds from the federal government. In the meantime, Evans recommended Berea express support for the establishment of a drug abuse treatment center by writing letters of support and by passing a resolution expressing intent to support the venture in the future. The city could then join the two governments in a memorandum of understanding at a later time, Evans said.

If the drug addiction treatment/rehabilitation center is built in Richmond, it would employ 42 full-time professionals and approximately 100 workers during the construction process, Evans stated.

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