This past April, Greenbrier County was selected as one of six finalists in the 2022 National Association of Counties (NACo) Creative Counties Placemaking Challenge.
The purpose of the “Challenge” was to bring together “counties from across the nation to strategically imagine how the arts can be used to solve local challenges.” Greenbrier was chosen for his proposal to create an arts-based substance-abuse recovery program.
“We’ll work virtually with the other five counties until around March of 2023,” Greenbrier County Commissioner Tammy Tincher said, while speaking with The Register-Herald on July 29. “We’ll be receiving technical training and guidance from Americans for the Arts, and through NACo.”
Joining Greenbrier County on the list of finalists are Hawaii County, Hawaii; LaCrosse County, Wisconsin; Perry County, Ohio; Potter County, Pennsylvania; and Van Buren County, Michigan.
“My goal is for us to come up with a program that we can implement through NACo, which can then be used as a template for other parts of the country,” Tincher added.
Tincher recently attended NACo’s annual conference in Aurora, Colorado, where she delivered a presentation regarding Greenbrier’s efforts to “use the arts to help those in recovery from substance use disorder.” While there, Tincher also had the opportunity to interact and exchange ideas with experts, as well as officials from the other five finalist-counties.
“(The program required) that we have different entities involved,” Tincher noted. “Originally we were looking at Carnegie and the Health Department – thinking along the harm reduction program lines. But once we got started, we got to think that Seed Sower would be a better starting place for us.”
Located in Dawson, Seed Sower provides secure housing and 24-hour peer-recovery support for up to 11 residents. The Dawson location opened last November, and a second location is scheduled to open in Montgomery this fall.
Tincher explained that the “smaller venue” afforded by Seed Sower would be a more manageable and efficient way to introduce the program.
“So we reached out to Jay (Phillips, director and CEO of Seed Sower), and he was all about us working together,” Tincher added.
“We also have Julian Levine from the Center for Rural Health, and Cathy Renard from Carnegie,” Tincher said. “The fact that Carnegie already implements these types of programs – It just worked out really well that everybody was interested in participating.”
“This is an initiative to integrate a comprehensive arts program into recovery as a means of providing a broader array of services into the recovery landscape,” Phillips said on July 29. “There’s a lot of underlying research that goes into the thinking behind that. ”
One such research-study, compiled in October 2020 by the National Endowment for the Arts, states that, “available evidence suggests that music interventions may reduce participant’s pain, reduce the amount of pain medication they take, improve their SUD (Substance Use Disorder) treatment readiness and motivation, and reduce craving.”
While the opioid epidemic is by no means a new concern, research released through NACo shows that, “In 2019, 28% of Greenbrier County residents held a prescription for a controlled substance and 10% of residents received an average daily dose of 90 morphine milligram equivalents or more, an indicator of those who may be at higher risk of overdose.”
“We know the arts can play a significant role in the treatment of PTSD with veterans,” Tincher said. “Just knowing where we are with substance abuse disorder in Greenbrier County, and West Virginia as a whole, we thought it would be good to put the two together and figure out a way to make something work.”
Tincher explained that the next step toward implementing the program is more closely researching similar programs from around the world. The Center for Rural Health is currently engaged in the data-collection process.
“The biggest thing for us moving forward is to determine whether we want to implement this on a small scale, or if we want to do some bigger projects,” Tincher added. “We talked about things like art-journaling. Carnegie wrote a grant for a portable pottery wheel, where they would take it to different places. During our next meeting, we’ll figure out the next steps.”