West Virginia and Ohio residents in addiction recovery now have a chance to go back to school or get training to prepare them for workforce reentry, thanks to the Bridge of Hope Scholarship.

“The problem is that people get well but can’t find a job, and are then more likely to fall back into addiction,” said Lynne Fruth, President and Chairman of Fruth Pharmacy, which helped to start the scholarship program—located in Point Pleasant (WV). “People need an avenue to get back into the workforce, or it’s hard to complete the cycle of recovery. There is a lot of fundraising for people to get into recovery, but I’m unaware of other programs that focus on scholarships for people who’ve completed recovery.”

The program has raised over $150,000 and given out approximately 15 scholarships to date, Fruth said. “People with criminal records and legal problems have a hard time accessing assistance,” she said. “With this program, they don’t have to meet other requirements to access assistance.”

To be eligible, a scholarship applicant must have completed a recovery program and demonstrate good standing in regards to the recovery program’s after-care requirements, and must actively participate in a mutual aid group or alternative peer support group.

The scholarships range from $1,000 to $1,500 per applicant. “We want to help more people with smaller amounts rather than a few people with large amounts,” Fruth explained. “The importance of giving people a sense of hope, and the value of validation, is huge.”

Fruth indicated that the scholarship funds go directly to the training program or university, to avoid any misuse of funds. Fruth Pharmacy has been giving out scholarships for many years, but just recently became involved to help curb the addiction crisis. Five years ago, it was the first pharmacy chain in the country to remove the single-ingredient Sudafed, which people would use to cook meth, Fruth said.

“We worked with Senator Manchin to get most pharmacies to replace it with a tamper-resistant product that can’t be used to cook meth. This reduced meth labs in West Virginia by sixty percent. We then got involved by training pharmacists to use NARCAN. Three years ago, we started giving out scholarships for people in recovery.”

Fruth started the scholarship program with the help of other doctors in the area, including Dr. Michael Brumage, Dr. Michael Kilkenny, Tim Hazelett, and Matt Boggs, executive director of Recovery Point. Her pharmacy raised money, along with others, including Walgreens, Cardinal Health, Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation, and Highland Hospital Foundation.

— Interested in the Bridge of Hope Scholarship? Find out more at The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation here.

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