Martinsburg Detox Center Hits One Year Since Opening

Oct 9, 2019

It’s been one year since the Paloma Crisis Stabilization & Detox Center opened in Martinsburg. The facility is the first of its kind in the Eastern Panhandle in more than two decades. 

The Center is open 24/7 and offers in-patient, or overnight services for people suffering from substance use disorder. The launch of the 16-bed facility hit some bumps in the beginning, but it’s remained open and has helped more than 250 people find recovery.

Up until last year, if someone from the Eastern Panhandle region was seeking recovery, had Medicaid and wanted to be able to stay in detox overnight, they had to travel as far as Morgantown or farther to seek treatment.

“I needed to place my care in somebody else’s care,” said Heather.

Heather is 35 years old, from Hardy County and has a two-year-old son. She said she’s been struggling with addiction for twenty years, and this is the first time she’s entered recovery. She’s entering treatment for herself, her son and her family.

“They’re almost mourning me, and I’m still alive, so that drags you here, too,” she said.

At the time West Virginia Public Broadcasting spoke with Heather, she had been in detox for seven days at Paloma. There’s no set time limit on how long someone can stay, but on average, a usual stay is between five and ten days.

The facility is colorful inside with inspirational quotes on the walls. Clients are put on a strict schedule: they have to wake up at the same time, go to bed at the same time, eat three meals a day, aren’t allowed to have caffeine, and they must attend group and individual therapy every day.

Paloma offers a variety of therapies, such as talk therapy, painting, nutrition, meditation and even acupuncture.

Heather said she’s loved everything about her experience at Paloma.

“They’ve been awesome here, I mean, they have. Everything gets confusing and chaotic with addicts, and these people are doing an amazing job that only kindhearted people would be able to do,” she said.

This artwork was done by clients in recovery at the Paloma Crisis Stabilization & Detox Center in Martinsburg.
Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Paloma employs 35 people: a case manager, a chef, receptionists, therapists, three doctors, mental health techs and nurses. On average, the facility has about eight clients staying with them at any given time.

“We have to try to meet them where they are. Where they are is not in a good place,” Peter Callahan said. Callahan is a local therapist and social worker and the owner and founder of Paloma. “We have to try to help them find that better place forward on their own, just help them, guide them. Because we can't push them. We can't force them. We can't pull them, you know, but we can definitely make the path available for them.” 

The program at Paloma took two years to get up and running and was funded by a $1 million state grant. Medicaid is currently the only insurance accepted at the facility, otherwise a client has to pay out of pocket at $700 a day. Callahan said he hopes to accept other types of insurance in the future.

The first five months for Paloma were challenging, Callahan explained. Due to some issues with Medicaid and keeping doctors, the facility was forced to close and then reopen a handful of times. But Callahan said those problems have been sorted out, and for the last month, it’s been relatively smooth sailing.

“We’re on the upswing,” he said. “There’s always going to be room for improvement, but we’re trying to hire more staff, we’re trying to make more changes that we need inside the building that we know are going to best for the safety of the clients.”

Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Callahan said the facility has seen its share of growing pains. Getting things up and running has been a learning experience for him. But he said the facility is worth fighting for.

Local group, The Hope Dealer Project, agrees. 

The Hope Dealer Project was started by three Martinsburg women in 2016. Hope Dealers volunteer to transport a person in the Eastern Panhandle with substance use disorder, first to a hospital to be medically cleared, and then to an in-patient detox facility anywhere in the state. 

Paloma was a game changer for them.

“Clients will reach out to us, and thank god, you know, [Paloma] is literally ten minutes, if that, from the hospital,” Tara Mason said. 

Mason is the vice president of The Hope Dealer Project. She said Paloma has saved her and other Hope Dealers thousands of dollars on gas since it opened, and they’re able to help more people than they ever could before.

As Paloma enters its second year, Callahan is hopeful the facility will continue to improve.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.