Inclusive Recovery City organizer pushes back against “sanctuary city” claims, initiative shelved

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – An initiative that would have made the city of Beckley the first Inclusive Recovery City in the entire country has been shelved following significant public backlash.

The Inclusive Recovery City model aims to alleviate negative perceptions of addiction and recovery, help people in need access resources, and promote the positive inclusion of addicts in recovery in the community.

The measure was first announced at the end of February. One of the lead organizers is Seed Sower, a recovery organization that provides support, transportation, and supervised housing to people in need.

The proposed Inclusive Recovery City program would have featured partnerships with county agencies, local businesses and churches, and the Beckley city government.

At the time, the designation was praised by community leaders, including Mayor Rappold, who said in a press release that “our city leaders and our citizens have steadfastly stood with those in recovery seeking a path forward.”

After significant pushback by city residents, however, the future of the initiative is now in question.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, council members also questioned the initiative, saying they were inundated by concerns from their constituents. There have been significant comments on social media, as well.

“I got probably 20 Facebook messages, phone calls, and text messages this morning about this,” Councilmember Cody Reedy said during the meeting. “I’m worried we are opening ourselves up to a big can of worms and we are going to bring a lot of stuff here that we don’t have the resources to handle.”

Reedy also questioned why there were no public workshops on the issue.

Mayor Rappold said he was surprised by the backlash and didn’t think that city council needed to be involved. On Wednesday, he told city council members that he would not sign the charter at this point.

In a statement, Jay Phillips, the executive director of Seed Sowers, issued a statement shortly after Rappold’s decision became public knowledge. He pushed back against any rumors that suggested the program would make Beckley a “sanctuary city” and pointed out that it required no funding from the city government. Rather, it was meant to be a celebration of already existing collaborations.

“Our overarching goal is to express our commitment to individuals struggling with addiction in Beckley and southern West Virginia, conveying that they matter, and that we aim to provide ample opportunities for them to pursue recovery within a supportive community,” Phillips said. “Our vision is not to isolate or exclude but to walk alongside them, offering hope, encouragement, and assertive connections to existing community resources.”

What was supposed to be a charter signing scheduled for March 19 at 9:30 a.m. will now be a presentation and question-and-answer session. Seed Sowers will also hold a workshop on March 18 from 6-7 p.m. to answer community questions.

Both events will be held in the West Virginia University Institute of Technology auditorium on Neville Street.

Newswatch will keep you updated as we learn more.

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