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'Continuum of care': Longview ministry begins raising money for complete rehab program

A plan to host prison parolee transitional housing is off the table, but a Longview ministry is moving forward on a $2 million capital campaign to create what might be a first-of-its-kind rehab program in the nation.

Directors of Wiseman Ministries call it a “continuum of care,” in which people with from drug or alcohol addictions can detoxify, receive immediate mental health services and then transition to psychological and personal treatment with a goal of becoming healthy, productive members of society.

“This will be the first one like it in the country,” Wiseman Development Director Cary Hilliard said, with Executive Director Tim Wiseman adding, “The first one in the country that we know of that does detox and does programming.”

Wiseman talked about the campaign — he hopes to break ground later this year — soon after meeting with Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt to smooth over ruffled feathers caused when Wiseman Ministries’ House of Disciples facility and a private contractor announced an idea to house 70 male and female parolees in downtown Longview.

That potential contract was killed this past week after city and county officials publicly opposed it and got an assist from state Rep. Jay Dean, who said he called on the Texas House chairman of corrections to halt movement on the plan.

“A lot (of parolees) need an opportunity,” Dean said Friday, “but this wasn’t the right place.”

Wiseman Ministries’ expansion and building campaign, called Addicted to Hope, proposes building a two-story facility next door and to the north of House of Disciples’ main building on Green Street.

The campaign has received support from local leaders.

“Those types of programs are needed,” Stoudt said.

The new facility

Just like the main House of Disciples building that was once Welch Funeral Home, the new building would have columns across the front. Inside the new building, the first floor would have a medical detox center including medical intake, a family conference room and isolation rooms. There would be observational detox beds, counseling rooms, a fitness center, a multipurpose activity room, and a laundry room, showers and a barbershop to serve the homeless, according to the ministry.

The second floor would provide more dormitory rooms, lodging for staff, a computer center and a kitchenette.

Key to the 15,000-square-foot expansion is that, for the first time, a person needing treatment can get the detoxification, medical and mental treatment and then move to the out-service psychological counseling, integration and transitional treatment that House of Disciples already provides, all in one continuous program.

“From the time that they come in for detox, mental health (or) whatever treatment it is that they need, we begin building the relationship with them and going from inpatient to outpatient and then going into educational programs, vocational programs, residential housing,” Wiseman said. “So it’s a continuum of care from whatever condition it is that they come to us in until the point where they’re back into society being stable and effective, and that’s why this is unique.”

While Stoudt opposes transitional housing for parolees, he said treatment for drug and alcohol addictions or mental health issues can help many of the people who pass through his and other judges’ courtrooms.

“They’re clearly needed in this community,” he said. “We see those issues through my office and through the court system on a daily basis, and so I’m looking forward to how that all turns out.”

Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said the expansion part of Wiseman Ministries’ plan sounds like a faith-based version of a program in Bexar County, in which law enforcement officers are able to drop off people battling addictions or mental health issues at a facility for detoxification or immediate treatment rather than an emergency room. However, the Bexar County program doesn’t include long-term treatment so that clients can get the short-term and longer-term services in one place.

Cerliano believes it is important to sit down with those who want to establish and operate such a facility so directors and local leaders all can understand how the program will work and what kinds of variables it might have on its neighbors, he said.

“We deal with people every day that have no other options and end up in jail,” he said. “Some of the people, the jail is just not equipped to handle, and we sometimes end up taking them to the emergency room and have to sit with them for hours, days or weeks on end.”

‘Life recovery’

Wiseman and Hilliard called the program “life recovery” because when someone needs treatment from addition, his problems aren’t just drugs and alcohol.

There also are issues such as probation, parole problems or issues regarding back child support, court matters and psychological problems. Clients also could have suspended driver’s licenses or lack of identification.

“A lot of detox centers, they’ll have the 30-day detox and the 60-day detox, and then when you leave the program, you leave with a pat on the back and a brochure on where you can find an Alcoholics Anonymous class, “ Hilliard said. “You might have some small groups that you can join, but there’s not a follow up life recovery program that we’re offering with trade school opportunities, with complete life recovery programs, with counseling services provided, so on and so forth.”

Addicted to Hope also has received support from leadership of the health systems serving Longview whose emergency rooms are usually the frontlines of patients with mental health problems or who have drug and alcohol addictions, Wiseman said.

“We’ve also met with the hospitals to get them on board and explain that, ‘Hey, we want your patients.’ We want to be able to solve this problem not only for you and allow you to be able to be more effective in what you’re doing,” Wiseman said, “but also we feel that again, when we take that person from here all the way through the continuum of care, it will be a lot more successful in what we’re trying to do as well.”

Directors want to build the program out at one time, but that depends on fundraising. So far, Wiseman Ministries has reached about 12 percent of its goal.

If funds are raised slower than hoped, the build will begin in phases starting with the detox center, then the dorms and finally the multipurpose room, Hilliard said.

“It depends on funding,” Wiseman said, “but as soon as we reach a comfortable amount in our fundraising campaign, we’ll go ahead and begin breaking ground and then continue on with our fundraising efforts.”

Gregg County ag extension agent 'ending on a high note'

Randy Reeves doesn’t believe it will take long for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension to replace him after he retires as Gregg County Extension agent.

That doesn’t mean he won’t be missed.

“We’re going to miss him,” Gregg County Master Gardeners 2019 President David Hackley said, “and I know he’s still going to be around in the area, and we’re thankful for the time he did spend with Master Gardeners.”

Gregg County commissioners have accepted Reeves’ retirement application effective June 30.

Texas A&M will announce the job opening internally for a few weeks before opening the job posting to an external, larger audience, Reeves said of the replacement process.

“I have a feeling it will not be open long,” he said, “because Gregg County has such an active Extension agricultural program that someone can walk right in and should be able to keep it going.”

As for Reeves, he said he will spend time on his new tractor but also work three days a week at Jake’s Feed and Animal Center in Longview as a lawn and garden consultant, “again something that I enjoy, working with people and their lawn and garden problems, interpreting soil test results and other things concerning agriculture and horticultural topics.”

Reeves’ 35 1/2-year career began in Harrison County in 1984, right after graduating from Tarleton State University in Stephenville with master’s and bachelor’s degrees in agriculture, he said.

After Harrison County, he spent three years in Hardin County near Beaumont, then returned to Northeast Texas with a four-year stint in Upshur County before he got the chance to return to Harrison County. He did, and he remained in Harrison County for 20 years before transferring to Gregg County in May 2015.

He decided to retire, he said, because he felt that he’s reached a point in his career at which he’s peaked. He and his wife fulfilled a longtime dream of theirs when they bought property in Harrison County northwest of Harleton. He called it a place to retire to and enjoy life, their grandchildren and family.

Reeves had plenty of positive things to say about his time in Gregg County and working with local officials, but especially beef and forage producers and others in the agricultural arena.

“I have also felt like we have had a great relationship with the Gregg County Commissioners Court, especially (Pct. 1) Commissioner Ronnie McKinney, who was our contact person with the court. I also have to single out County Judge Bill Stoudt, who is a terrific county judge and a real asset to Gregg County,” Reeves said. “I have tremendous respect for both of these gentlemen.”

Reeves called the Gregg County Master Gardeners program and the Oil Belt Farm and Ranch Club “a real standout as far as fun to work with” and said that he developed really strong friendships that he will cherish with members of both organizations.

The feeling appears mutual.

Reeves “was both a mentor and an adviser,” Hackley said, “and actually during his time with the Master Gardeners, I think our group grew in numbers.”

Hackley liked that Reeves was approachable, easy to work with and “had a real concern and real care for the Master Gardeners group and wanted it to succeed,” he said. Hackley is hoping for a smooth transition with whomever Texas A&M picks to replace Reeves and that the Master Gardeners have the same working relationship.

Reeves said he’s confident that the Extension Office’s mission will carry forward, especially with 4-H and Youth Program leader Arvitta Scott and agent Mandy Patrick.

In Scott’s first year in Gregg County, 4-H program membership has increased more than 600 percent, he said, adding, “She is so passionate about youth, and it has been a true blessing to have her in the office. ... I learned a while back to just get out of her way and let her go forward, and this she has.”

Patrick is among the office’s newest staff members, working with Scott on Grow, Eat, Go, which is a federally funded health and nutrition program that is active within Longview ISD. Patrick also is gearing up with diabetes educational efforts.

“I feel that the Gregg County Extension has vastly improved over the years and will continue to do so with the Extension staff that we have in place with Mandy Patrick and Arvitta Scott,” he said. “So, I am leaving the program in great hands and ending on a high note.”

Amid tough talk, Trump says he could be Iran's 'best friend'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Saturday that military action against Iran was still an option for its downing of an unmanned U.S. military aircraft, but amid heightened tensions he dangled the prospect of eventually becoming an unlikely “best friend” of America’s longtime Middle Eastern adversary.

Trump also said “we very much appreciate” that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard chose not to target a U.S. spy plane carrying more than 30 people.

The president’s softer tone Saturday marked a stark contrast to the anti-Iran rhetoric he employed throughout the presidential campaign and presidency, including his use of punishing economic sanctions in an attempt to pressure Iran to give up its quest to build nuclear weapons.

“The fact is we’re not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon,” he said as he left the White House for a weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat. “And when they agree to that, they are going to have a wealthy country, they’re going to be so happy and I’m going to be their best friend.”

“I hope that happens. I hope that happens, but it may not,” Trump said. He later said Iran will be hit with unspecified new sanctions on Monday.

Days after he said it was “hard to believe” the shoot-down was intentional, Trump did an about-face and accused Iran of “knowingly” targeting the plane. And he reiterated that he aborted a planned military strike set for Thursday after learning approximately 150 Iranians would be killed.

“Everybody was saying I’m a war monger. And now they say I’m a dove. And I think I’m neither, if you want to know the truth,” Trump told reporters. “I’m a man with common sense. And that’s what we need in this country, is common sense. But I didn’t like the idea of them knowingly shooting down an unmanned drone and then we kill 150 people.”

He added: “I don’t want to kill 150 Iranians. I don’t want to kill 150 of anything or anybody unless it’s absolutely necessary.’”

Trump’s comments came as Iran summoned the United Arab Emirates’ top envoy to Tehran to protest the neighboring Arab nation’s decision to allow the U.S. to use one of its military bases to launch the drone that Iran says entered its airspace, state media reported Saturday.

Iran issued a “strong protest” to the UAE diplomat, saying Iran does not tolerate the facilitation of foreign forces that violate its territory, the report by the official IRNA news agency said.

The U.S. said its RQ-4A Global Hawk was shot down Thursday over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, not inside Iranian airspace.

The shoot-down by elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces marked the first time the Islamic Republic directly attacked the American military amid mounting tensions over Tehran’s unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The two countries disputed the circumstances leading up to an Iranian surface-to-air missile bringing down the drone, an unmanned aircraft with a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 jetliner and costing more than $100 million.

British diplomat Andrew Murrison planned to visit Iran today to call for the “urgent de-escalation in the region and raise U.K. and international concerns about Iran’s regional conduct” during talks with Tehran’s government, Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement Saturday.

Trump said U.S. sanctions on Iran have turned the country into an “economic mess” and he tweeted later Saturday about new penalties to be imposed on Monday, without providing details. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that Iran’s financial sector would be penalized soon if it doesn’t work to stop evading international guidelines designed to combat money laundering.

The drone incident immediately heightened the crisis already gripping the wider region, which is rooted in Trump withdrawing the U.S. a year ago from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal and imposing crippling new sanctions on Tehran.

Recently, Iran quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium to be on pace to break one of the deal’s terms by next week, while threatening to raise enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels on July 7 if Europe doesn’t offer it a new deal.

In Iraq, security measures were increased at one of the country’s largest air bases, which houses American trainers, a top Iraqi air force commander said Saturday. The U.S. military said operations at the base were going on as usual and there were no plans to evacuate personnel.