Jack Walker Published

Beckley First US City To Earn International Status For Addiction Recovery Support

A rendering of a city street in Beckley. Buildings span the left side of the image. On the opposite side, divided by a road, there is a sidewalk with lamps, tables and trees beside it.
Beckley was named the first inclusive recovery city in the United States. Its new status will be formalized March 19 during a ceremony with city and health officials.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The first city in the United States granted a special status for its addiction recovery resources is located in southern West Virginia.

On March 19, Beckley will become the first city in the nation to be named an inclusive recovery city, joining 27 other cities globally.

Recovery cities are recognized for their citywide approach to curbing addiction and supporting individuals experiencing the condition.

To achieve its new status, the city will host four community events annually, which aim to directly include individuals experiencing addiction and promote community well-being.

In collaboration with the international recovery city program, the city will also create a new recovery council.

The group of community advocates, addiction specialists and city officials will work together to address addiction recovery on the local level.

James Phillips, executive director of the Beckley addiction recovery nonprofit Seed Sower, is spearheading the project.

He said these events are “public, celebratory, community recovery events” that will reinforce the idea that recovery “is not something to shy away from or to hide.”

“It’s okay to celebrate it openly and publicly, because there is hope,” he said.

Phillips said he hopes the city’s new designation can foster more productive conversations on addiction.

“The research has been telling us for a number of years now that one of the best ways to promote long-term remission from substance use disorder is by positive social relationships and meaningful activities in the community,” he said.

The recovery city program accomplishes this by bringing together different members of the local community to advance a shared goal of strengthening addiction recovery resources.

This citywide effort can be more effective than a person-by-person approach to addiction recovery, Phillips said.

“When you have multiple isolated pockets of recovery [that] maybe don’t know what the other pockets of recovery are doing, there are people that slip through the gaps,” he said.

Phillips and several city officials will attend a charter signing March 19 to formalize the new status.

The event will feature David Best as a keynote speaker. Best conceptualized the program, and serves as president of the Recovery Outcomes Institute in Florida.

“This model offered a strategic way to best help the people and employers of this region, leveraging the area’s considerable community strengths and organizational assets,” Best said in a statement Wednesday.

Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold expressed his support for the city’s new status.

“We are honored to be the first city in the country to be named an IRC,” he said Wednesday. “Our city leaders and our citizens have steadfastly stood with those in recovery seeking a path forward.”

With the city’s new status, Phillips said he hopes Beckley can continue “destigmatizing addiction and recovery.”

Through more community-based support, Beckley can provide new forms of support “for people who are suffering from a chronic health condition that we very rarely treat as a chronic health condition,” he said.