Snow was falling and the temperature hovered in the low 30s. That didn’t stop or even reduce the enthusiasm of the 50 or so people who gathered one afternoon in early March in front of Port 45 Recovery at 1616 Grant St., to honor more than 100 people from Scioto County lost to substance abuse disorder, more commonly simply called addiction.
“It just kind of magically all came together. It’s as if it was meant to be,” Kathy Newman, a Port 45 counselor, said just prior to the release of approximately 75 or so black balloons each carrying the names of one or more persons who succumbed to their addictions. That presumably included the name of Newman’s sister, who the counselor said lost her fight with addiction a few years ago.
“We’ve just lost so many people in this county, it has to stop,” Newman said.
On Oct. 21, a somewhat smaller, but still enthusiastic crowd gathered again, on a much warmer morning, in front of a brand-new Port 45 facility, cutting the ribbon on that facility, which sits at 1907 11th St. The themes of both gatherings were essentially the same: stopping it, the “it,” being addiction.
Bryan Borland is Port 45’s medical director. He talked to the Daily Times about the organization’s mission being to help persons struggling with addictions not just overcome those addictions but aid them “spiritually, physically, mentally, financially and in just about any way that they might need our help.”
Started by JoAnna Kuhn (who now goes by the name JoAnna Donini) and opened in honor of her 18-year-old son who took his own life under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the original Port 45 on Grant is now closed.
As many know, the name “Port 45” was inspired by the number Donini’s son used while playing football for Portsmouth High School. Donini moved on earlier this year and is actually no longer part of the Port 45 operation, which includes a location in south Columbus, Borland said.
Borland added the new 11th Street location is a huge improvement over the original Grant offices. Port 45’s Portsmouth location has gone from 45,000 square feet to just over 10,000 square feet of completely remodeled space, formally home, some time ago, to the Portsmouth Moose. But Borland emphasized a bigger space is the not only improvement for Port 45. He said the Grant Street location had fallen into somewhat of a state of disrepair.
“It just didn’t inspire a lot of hope or motivation for the future,” Borland said.
He emphasized the new facility is more open, providing lots of light and, he obviously hopes, providing lots of good vibes, so to speak, for the people who need Port 45’s aid. Borland also emphasized the aid given by his organization is not that of a typical rehabilitation facility.
“Our treatment program requires a considerable commitment,” he said, adding medical treatments such as Suboxone are only the beginning of the Port 45 program. Port 45 is strictly an outpatient facility, but Borland said patients visit the facility multiple times per week, if not per day, for various types of treatment ranging from group talks to individualized therapy.
“We’ll people find a job, we will do whatever it takes,” he said.
In terms of improving the atmosphere of Port 45, Borland talked about an “amazing backyard,” which during the appropriate season, will be used for everything from cookouts to other outdoor activities.
Portsmouth’s Port 45 currently serves 125 people, although Borland hopes to increase at two at least 175 people.
“Port 45 really saved my life,” said recovering addict Eugene Collier II, back in March. Although he was given the opportunity to speak anonymously, Collier insisted he wanted his name in print as a recovering addict, and, presumably hopefully, an inspiration to others.
“I just hope other people would reach out for the help that is there,” Collier stated.
Collier said he started with low-level pain pills in his teens and later, as have so many others, moved onto much stronger drugs. He said he arrived at Port 45 almost in defiance of someone who insisted he would never get clean. Initially, Collier added, he was out to prove that person wrong only later realizing he had to go through the recovery process for himself and no one else. He admitted to at least one relapse but said he had been clean for nine months at the time.
“The staff here is just unbelievable,” Collier continued, talking about Port 45. “They actually care if you live or die.”
For his part, Borland understands some people might object to replacing the old Moose with a treatment facility. But he added, the opioid and addiction problems in Portsmouth are extremely well-known, even grabbing national attention. He said facilities such as Port 45 are absolutely necessary.
“We are an established center that wants to continue saving lives,” said Abbi Andre, who in March was the Port 45 site supervisor. “More treatment means more life! We are currently a part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
“It’s all about saving lives,” Newman said.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.