Motels cause for concern

Published 11:35 am Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Recovery personnel raise issue at meeting

Bob Vinson and Andie Leffingwell, of Spectrum Outreach Services in Ironton, were at the Lawrence County Commission meeting Tuesday to speak about efforts needed to help drug-addicted babies and children affected by drugs in Lawrence County.

Vinson is the executive director and owner of Spectrum Outreach Services and Leffingwell is a development specialist for alcohol and drug addiction recovery.

Vinson said something needed to be done about the three motels in South Point, referencing the Country Hearth, Grandview Inn and Southern Hills Inn, because of the number of children they affect.

Email newsletter signup

“There are about 66 kids who go to South Point schools between the three motels that call these places home. We’ve checked with the school counselors and have confirmed that,” he said. “School buses go to these places and pick children up. Something needs to be done about that. It not only puts the children at risk, but it’s a nuisance to everyone in the county.”

This past October, Leffingwell requested an inspection of the Country Hearth by the State Fire Marshal, which found 26 total violations, including broken windows, exterior structural damage with the roof and drainage, bed bugs, smoke detectors broken or missing, unsanitary bathrooms, interior surfaces unmaintained, unsanitary floors, carpets, walls and ceilings, mold, unsanitary mattresses, box springs and bed linens, cockroaches, dead mice, ventilation issues and fire protection issues just to name a few.

When the inspector came back in March, only five of the 26 violations had been corrected.

“Not only are these places completely unsanitary, but drugs are very prevalent and Lawrence County EMS and the sheriff’s office go to these places quite frequently,” Vinson said. “We want to take this and turn it into something positive that can help people who are struggling.”

Leffingwell said she has also filed a request to the State Fire Marshal to inspect the Southern Hills Inn, but hasn’t heard anything back yet.

The Lawrence Economic Development Corporation recently purchased the Grandview Inn, but Spectrum Outreach Services is currently trying to purchase the Country Hearth and Southern Hills Inn.

“The owner of the Country Hearth lives out of town and doesn’t care about anything that’s going on there as long as he’s making ‘cash money,’ is what he said, and he doesn’t want to sell it right now,” Leffingwell said. “It’s my understanding that the only way anything can be done is if the prosecutor takes action against the owner because of the deplorable conditions.”

The commissioners made a motion to send a letter to Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson regarding the Country Hearth as well as a letter to the owner of the Country Hearth, Josh Anand, stating that if he doesn’t clean up the property himself, something will be done to clean up the property.

“This is all about the children. We deal with drug addiction recovery, and through that, we’ve seen all of these children who are affected by this at these places and we want to get these children out,” Leffingwell said. “It’s part of the mission of what we do already.”

If Spectrum Outreach Services is able to eventually purchase the Country Hearth and/or the Southern Hills Inn, Vinson and Leffingwell said they have plans to put those properties to good use, including renting out rooms for those recovering from addiction or using space to care for drug-addicted babies born in Lawrence County, something Leffingwell stressed as a tremendous need for the county. With LEDC having already purchased the Grandview Inn, Leffingwell said Spectrum plans to talk with LEDC Executive Director Dr. Bill Dingus about possibly renting out some rooms there as well.

“Cabell Huntington Hospital’s whole third floor is a neonatal unit for babies who are born drug-addicted, and Lillie’s Place in Huntington is for babies who are severely affected by drug addiction. But Lillie’s Place stopped taking babies from Lawrence County. Only West Virginia residents are now able to use that facility,” Leffingwell said. “We would like to have a place where we could care for babies who are born drug-addicted in Lawrence County.”

Leffingwell added that after speaking with Lillie’s Place Medical Director Dr. Sean Loudon, 563 children in the Tri-State, Lawrence County, Cabell County, West Virginia, and Boyd County, Kentucky, would be going into kindergarten in the year 2020 with learning disabilities due to being born addicted to drugs, and that number is increasing each year.