By Matthew Young, RealWV
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “Like it or not, this terrible drug epidemic has touched every single solitary one of us. It didn’t matter if you were black or white, or rich or poor. It didn’t matter if you were young or old, and surely to God above it didn’t matter if you were a Democrat or a Republican – it’s touched us all.”
That’s what Gov. Jim Justice said on Wednesday, while appearing alongside representatives from Jobs & Hope West Virginia to announce the “Get Paid to Pay it Forward” campaign – a statewide program which will compensate drivers who provide transportation to those seeking treatment for substance use.
“Transportation is the number-one barrier that our participants face statewide,” Deborah Harris, Job & Hope’s lead transition agent, told the crowd gathered outside the capitol building in Charleston. “West Virginia is a very rural state, so transportation options are very limited. Jobs & Hope has a couple of new initiatives to address those barriers.”
As stated on their website, “Jobs & Hope West Virginia is the state’s comprehensive response to the substance use disorder crisis. Established by Governor Jim Justice and the West Virginia Legislature, this program 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.”
Prior to explaining the new initiatives, Harris shared what she described as “some of the recent success numbers that we have to report for Jobs & Hope.”
“Currently we have over 1,600 active program participants in the state,” Harris said. “We have assisted – in partnership with Legal Aid of West Virginia – 24 of our participants to complete expungement. We have helped employ over 4,000 individuals statewide, and we have graduated 412 participants from our program.”
Any licensed driver in West Virginia may sign up for the Get Paid to Pay it Forward campaign. Those currently in recovery are also encouraged to apply through Modivcare as contract workers. Drivers will be paid per mile, and may select both their route, and the frequency with which they provide transportation.
As Gov. Justice explained it, the Get Paid to Pay it Forward program “is like a modern-day Uber.”
A second initiative recently launched by Jobs & Hope West Virginia seeks to provide free vehicles to those in need. Through a partnership with Good News Mountaineer Garage, eligible participants can receive a free, donated vehicle.
Lastly, Jobs & Hope West Virginia has recently acquired two vehicles in the areas of Charleston and Morgantown, which are available to eligible program participants for the purposes of taking their driver’s license road test.
“If I were to write a book, it would be titled ‘The Easiest Stuff is Always the Toughest Stuff to Find,” Gov. Justice said, after Harris had concluded her remarks. “Now just think about it – this is relatively easy, but we couldn’t quite pull it off. If we had treatment, and that’s all we had, we treat and recycle and the circle just continues to go and go and go. So really what you need is other things.”
“You needed people like Deb (Harris) and her incredible team (at Jobs & Hope) to stay right with you through the whole process,” Justice continued. “And if you wanted to do construction work, you needed to learn how to do a construction job – where you were trained on something that was truly construction equipment rather than being trained on a pick-up truck – and showing up on a job site where the first question you’re asked is, ‘What experience do you have?’ And you don’t have any.”
Justice noted that these situations are quite common, and often lead to hopelessness, adding that, “Then, as far as Jobs & Hope, the hope leaves.”
“At the end of the day what you really needed to complete the whole process, you needed compassionate treatment,” Justice said. “And then you needed somebody to hold your hand and really be with you. Then you needed to be able to receive some level of training, and you needed a pathway to get back the simplest of all things – your driver’s license.”
“I guess what we’re announcing, in many ways, is just another form of ‘pay it forward,’another opportunity for people to help us be able to provide that transportation.” Justice concluded. “When it really boils down to it, West Virginia abounds with love beyond belief. And at the end of the day, that’s what we’ve got to do – we’ve got to step up and pull the rope together. What is one life worth?”
For more information about Jobs & Hope West Virginia, visit jobsandhope.wv.gov. Those interested in becoming a transportation provider should visit help4wv.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.