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'A new life.' Catholic retreat on Herrington Lake to become drug treatment center.

Lexington Herald-Leader - 11/8/2019

Nov. 8--LANCASTER -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington has agreed to lease a little-used retreat center on Herrington Lake to community groups for a new alcohol and drug treatment center, the diocese announced Friday.

Cliffview Retreat and Conference Center, located on an isolated peninsula on 42 acres between Herrington Lake and the Dix River, will be leased to the Catholic Action Center, a homeless service provider in Lexington, with an option to buy.

Mountain Comprehensive Care, a community mental health center based in Prestonsburg, will operate the 50-bed facility along with other community partners, including Bluegrass Community and Technical College. Mountain Comprehensive Care has provided alcohol and drug treatment for more than 50 years, said Katherine Word, who works at Moutain Comprehensive.

Word spoke at a news conference Friday at Cliffview announcing the treatment center.

Divine Providence Way of Cliffview, the name of the new treatment center, will focus on sustainable agriculture and sustainable energy as part of its treatment program.

Ginny Ramsey, co-founder of the Catholic Action Center, said the more than 38,000 square-feet retreat center will soon sport solar panels on its roof. The grounds, which have multiple trails, will soon have greenhouses, bee hives and chickens as part of its sustainable programming.

BCTC will provide classes, job training and other programs onsite, she said.

Bishop John Stowe said turning the little-used retreat into a drug and alcohol treatment center will help the church meet its mission of serving the most vulnerable.

"Pope Francis decries a 'throwaway culture' that treats people like disposable objects," Stowe said at the press conference. "This is especially true with issues of addiction, where people's struggles are often invisible or, worse, met with indifference by the wider community. This will become a place of accompaniment, which leads to a new life."

Stowe said Friday the diocese was struggling to keep the retreat center open. Because of its isolated location, it was just far enough from Lexington that it did not work for a one-day retreat.

"We could not charge people what it cost to operate it," Stowe said. When Ramsey and others approached the diocese with the idea of buying it and opening a drug treatment center, it seemed like the perfect option for the center, which has been part of the Lexington diocese for decades, he said.

The treatment center is expected to open in early 2020, Ramsey said.

Although the grounds and building will be owned by the Catholic Action Center, the treatment is not religious based, she said.

It can't open soon enough, said Daryl Hodge, of the Garrard County Ministerial Association. The rural county has no long-term drug treatment. People often have to wait months or go to another state to get into treatment, he said.

The ministerial association, a group of local ministers of all denominations, has been trying for years to scrape together funding to open a treatment center. When it heard about Divine Providence Way at Cliffview earlier this spring, "it was truly an answer to our prayers," Hodge said.

Tiffany Whitley struggled with substance abuse in 2003. She ended up in the Garrard County Detention Center.

"I tried to get treatment through the courts but there was no place to go," Whitley said Friday. Her addiction spiraled out of control and she ended up in state prison. It was there that she got clean. But if she had gotten help sooner, she may never had ended up in prison, she said.

She now works as a youth services coordinator for the Garrard County school system.

"We see a lot of kids who are living with addicted parents," Whitley said. "This is so needed in this county."

Ramsey said preference will be given to Garrard County residents. Mountain Comprehensive Care will handle all applications and intake, she said.

The treatment center will not need to get special approval from the county to open because Garrard County does not have zoning ordinances.

Stowe has pushed other community outreach initiatives during his tenure as Bishop, including the building of a privately-funded Hispanic outreach center on Alexandria Drive that is expected to open in the late summer of 2020.

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