Louisville’s The Healing Place is adding room for 176 more people to be treated for drug addiction. The recovery center has been routinely turning away 300 to 400 people a month who are looking for help.

“I’m not sure where they go,” said Douglas Scott, director of giving at The Healing Place. “The Healing Place is someone’s best last chance. I think some of them are going out there and dying because they don’t have an opportunity for a solution.”

The project will take two years to complete but the center will remain fully-functional during construction.

It’s been a long road to raising the needed funds for the expansion. In 2014, The Healing Place announced a $29 million campaign to expand the men’s campus — $1.6 million of that has come from state and local government funding. Scott said there’s $8 million left to be raised.

The facility’s expansion comes amid a growing opioid epidemic in Kentucky. A total of 1,248 people died of drug overdoses in 2015, an increase from 1,088 overdoses in 2014, according to a report from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

Sylvester Howell graduated from The Healing Place in October after six months in the program. His stay included 5 a.m. wake-up calls every day, numerous classes on addiction and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. While there, Howell also cleaned floors, painted walls and worked security.

Howell is from Richmond, Virginia. He decided to enter into treatment after first visiting his brother at the facility. Howell had been fired from his job as a fireman after testing positive on a drug test.

His family life was falling apart.

“They gave me a 30-day notice, ‘you’re going to take a drug test,’ and two days before the drug test, I went to alcohol and drugs,” he said. “This program let me know why [I did that].”

Howell said he’s excited for the Healing Place expansion because of the potential to help more people. He’s now enrolled in the community-based program. He comes back to mentor others and work on his own recovery. Howell said he plans on returning to Richmond in a year.

“My favorite job is helping another alcoholic to recovery,” he said. “I still believe in coming back and giving back to the program. I’m here to give back to the guys who just have a day to show them the program works if you work it.”

For now, Howell has a job working for Time Warner and has his own place in Louisville. His wife, children and grandchildren are coming to visit him over Christmas to see the place that has helped him and many others.


Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.