BUCKHANNON — West Virginia ranks number one in drug overdoses in the United States. It’s unfortunate, but nearly everyone these days has had their lives impacted in some way by substance abuse. That’s why Aaron Plumley came to the Rotary meeting on Tuesday to speak about the Northern Appalachian Adult & Teen Challenge treatment program in Clarksburg, WV. He is the program’s executive director, as well as a Teen Challenge graduate, and he proudly boasts that it is the most successful program of its kind.
Plumley said the Teen Challenge ministry has been in existence since 1958 when Reverend David Wilkerson first started it up in New York City to reach teenage gang members with messages of hope founded on God’s love. Wilkerson is also the well-known author of “The Cross and the Switchblade”. Today, there are approximately 250 Teen Challenge programs in the United States and over 1,000 worldwide.
Teen Challenge has been in WV for over 30 years, but The Northern Appalachian Adult & Teen Challenge program located in Clarksburg first came to fruition in 2009 as a crisis and referral center. In January 2019, they opened a 12,000 square foot residential treatment program with a mission to provide effective Christian discipleship training for women experiencing life-controlling problems. This is accomplished through spiritual and academic instruction, behavior management, work skills, ethics and life management training, and emotional support, all delivered within a disciplined and regimented atmosphere.
This particular facility is a long-term residential training program that lasts 12 months and can accommodate up to 20 women ages 18-40, who are experiencing problems such as drug and alcohol abuse. They not only provide food, shelter, clothing and basic hygiene supplies for their students, but they also provide plenty of love. By applying Biblical principles to relationships in the family, local church, chosen vocation and the community, the person can then live a free, successful Christian life. The Clarksburg facility also has a sister program for males that is located in Princeton, WV.
Plumley explained that the national relapse average is 85%, which means only 15% of those entering rehabilitation programs are successful at beating their addictions. However, Teen Challenge boasts a recovery rate of 75%, which is five times the national average. These impressive results of Teen Challenge programs produce graduates who positively contribute to their communities and lead more productive and healthy lives. Plumley stated, “I’ve never seen anyone give genuine effort to the program and not succeed.”
Teen Challenge is a non-profit organization that relies solely on the generous donations, funding, and volunteer efforts of individuals and organizations throughout communities to offer hope and a place of refuge for students as they develop the skills needed to function in society and develop a lasting relationship with Jesus Christ. They do not bill insurance companies nor accept court ordered individuals. Plumley also mentioned that while $14.6 million has currently been allocated to substance abuse treatment programs, Teen Challenge does not qualify for any of the grant funding due to their program’s religious affiliation, despite their much higher success rates.
Plumley attributes the success of the program to what he calls the “Jesus Factor”, which he said works because that is what our country was founded upon. He stated, “We don’t mix any secular, worldly ideas into our program. It’s just the gospel and that’s what breaks down the hearts of men and women and brings them to a place of freedom. There’s not a suboxone or methadone clinic or drug on this planet that will give you the kind of freedom that Christ will.”
Former students and graduates giving testimonials about how these programs are changing lives are a big part of their outreach efforts. Plumley said, “When everybody else turned their back on me, this place didn’t. I told them every nasty thing I’d ever done and their response was love.” He added, “My wife says it best. Jesus changed my heart and Teen Challenge taught me how to live again.” They have an Evangelism Team that would love to come and speak to your church or organization about how they can help. Teen Challenge programs vow that they will continue to reach out to broken individuals and their families with the love of Christ until every hurting young person seeking help has been given a second chance, broken lives have been restored, and families are made whole again.
If you would like more information or to make a referral, please contact Aaron Plumley at 304-933-3209 or email [email protected] Also, please be sure to mark your calendars for their Dessert Fundraising Night at Jewel City Gymnasium on May 24 at 7:00 p.m. For only $10, you will get a delectable dessert and drink with the bonus of hearing student testimonies. T-shirts and handmade jewelry will be available to purchase as well, so please be sure to RSVP by May 11.