ELEANOR, WV – Today, Gov. Jim Justice joined several state leaders at the Putnam County Career and Technical Center in Eleanor to officially announce the start of an all-new, comprehensive program aimed at combating the state’s drug crisis: Jobs & Hope West Virginia.
Jobs & Hope West Virginia is the result of the concept brought forth by Gov. Justice during his 2019 State of the State address, to remove barriers to job opportunities for those recovering from addiction.
“This started with just a dream,” Gov. Justice said. “We've got drugs affecting every family in this state, one way or another. We have to do something about it.”
Established by Gov. Justice and the West Virginia Legislature with $29.7 million in funding for its first year, Jobs & Hope West Virginia offers support through a statewide collaboration of agencies that provide West Virginians in recovery the opportunity to obtain career training and to ultimately secure meaningful employment.
Jobs & Hope West Virginia is a beginning-to-end program that allows an individual to receive free addiction treatment while, at the same time, receiving free career technical education.
Anyone wishing to sign up or learn more about Jobs & Hope West Virginia can do so by calling 304-583-4008 or toll free at 1-833-784-1385. Those interested can also visit the program website: JobsAndHope.wv.gov
“It was just this simple: we had to reach out and truly give the people that were affected by these terrible drugs treatment, and us pay for it,” Gov. Justice said. “The next thing we needed to do was train them; train them to where they could really be able to do something, and give them pathways – like a pathway to expungement, a pathway to get their driver’s license back, a pathway to come back into society.
“Then, the last part of the equation was just this simple: having them be able to be certified to be able to really do something. And then they’re on their way.”
HOW IT WORKS
The process begins when an individual, who is receiving treatment for substance use disorder, is determined to be ready for career training by professionals with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
At that point, the program participant is assigned to a single, dedicated transition agent. This agent, hired by the West Virginia Department of Education, will work with the participant throughout the entire process, assisting the participant in obtaining the appropriate level of qualifications, finding a job, and keeping it.
The transition agent will begin by conducting a needs assessment and building a personalized plan, for each participant, outlining education and career opportunities. The transition agent will also conduct assessments for potential support services needed, such as driver’s license reinstatement so long as the participant signs a contract agreeing to regular/random drug testing.
The transition agent will assist participants wishing to earn their high school equivalency.
Additionally, if the participant wishes to enter a field requiring a basic certification, such as food service, retail, or hospitality, among others, the participant will complete a 30-day job readiness and basic life skills training in order to obtain the associated certification. At this point, the participant may enter the workforce in one of these fields. However, more employment opportunities are also available.
The participant may pursue advanced career certifications in construction, customer service, and other fields at local adult and career training centers, community and technical colleges, or through programs offered by the West Virginia National Guard or the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
WorkForce West Virginia and the state Division of Rehabilitation Services will collaborate to assist the participant with job identification and placement. From there, the participant will enter the workforce.
If applicable, the participant can receive a one-time expungement for non-violent criminal offenses, signing a contract to agree to regular/random drug testing as a condition of expungement.
Even after their placement in the workforce, the participant will receive ongoing support from their transition agent and/or the Department of Health and Human Resources to ensure continued success.
The Jobs & Hope West Virginia program has undergone a soft launch as resources have been purchased and gathered and as staff have been brought online to handle the projected full capacity of the program.
Since the beginning of August, the program’s pioneering transition agents have already received more than 380 referrals. The Jobs & Hope West Virginia program currently has approximately 250 participants.
“Having the number of referrals that we’ve had in the first three months is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Bob Hansen, Executive Director of the DHHR’s Office of Drug Control Policy. “More people will be helped as we develop all the aspects of the program that is geared to giving people in recovery the tools to be successful.”
Dozens of facilities across the state – including substance use disorder treatment and recovery centers, adult learning centers, Advanced Career Education centers, community and technical colleges, West Virginia National Guard facilities, and other state offices – are being brought on board to be utilized for Jobs & Hope West Virginia.
WorkForce West Virginia has also been working to create incentives to encourage various employers across the state to hire program participants.
Hansen says that, in the coming months, the DHHR aims to add peer recovery specialists to help the transition agents. They also plan to assist with transportation and childcare, vision and dental care, and recovery housing to help people cement their recovery.
“This program, as it continues to develop, will play a significant role in helping people along the path of recovery,” Hansen said. “It will be an important part of giving people hope that their future can still be bright, that having a substance use disorder does not mean the end of the road, that the goals they never thought possible can really be achieved. For some people, it will even mean that they will have goals for the first time in their lives.”
Putnam County Career and Technical Center, the site of today’s celebratory event, will be among the first facilities to provide heavy equipment training for program participants interested in related job fields.
“We’ve got lots to do. This isn’t going to fix it all by itself, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Gov. Justice said. “Let’s just go now. Let’s absolutely be the ones to solve this terrible problem. Let’s be the ones to do it.”