Stanly commissioners delay decision on Gateway of Hope funding

The Stanly County Board of Commissioners recently removed an agenda item concerning continued funding of an addiction recovery center as the center experiences leadership changes.

At the board’s August meeting, Commissioner Peter Asciutto asked to have the item removed, which would have renewed the contract between the county and the facility.

Asciutto, Chairman Scott Efird and commissioners Trent Hatley and Bill Lawhon voted in favor of the motion to remove the item, with Vice Chairman Mike Barbee and Commissioners Patty Crump and Brandon King against it.

Gateway of Hope had requested $63,600 from the county for a period to have started Sept. 1 and run through Aug. 30, 2024. The money for the facility was slated to come from the county’s opioid settlement special revenue fund.

Asciutto asked for the agenda to be pulled so the Consolidated Human Services board could review the request. The CHS includes the previous boards of Stanly County Health Department and Department of Social Services.

King said he did not see a reason why the request should have to go before the CHS board.

County Manager Andy Lucas said while GOH was funded last year by money from a Health Resources and Services Administration federal grant, it would move to opioid settlement funds from the county this year.

Asciutto said the CHS board and county staff did not recommend renewing the contract. Lucas said staff had concerns because of medication-assisted treatment. When Asciutto said there were other reasons, Lucas said he was not aware of those.

Lucas said the CHS board recommended more than a year ago the types of “things they would like to see funded,” like recovery support housing, which GOH provides.

Larry Wilkins

Lucas mentioned Larry Wilkins, the facility’s former director, “was let go because of an issue.” According to a Stanly News & Press article published June 15, Wilkins was arrested on charges of sexual battery and indecent liberties with a child.

In a memo of understanding dated Aug. 16, GOH stated to county officials that Wilkins “departed GOH unexpectedly on 6-14-23 and did not leave records of previous residents, programming nor financial management.”

GOH contracted with Dr. Lew Davis of Bridge to Recovery from June 14 to Aug. 10 as “a part-time, temporary consultant.”

Currently, GOH Board Chairperson Paul Wilkins is also GOH executive director, with GOH Board Treasurer Ben Lisk now the facility’s financial officer.

In what the memo describes as “a complete restructuring of our administration and leadership,” Casey Whitley is now the program director for GOH and Cyvonne Gains is listed as a licensed counselor.

Lucas said the GOH board “has done things to try and mitigate any issue of the former executive director leaving the organization.”

Asciutto said GOH “does not hit all the guidelines for MAT treatment” and reiterated he wanted this issue to go before the CHS board.

“I just don’t feel like in this case we should rubber stamp this,” Asciutto said.

The next scheduled meeting of the CHS board is Sept. 7, two days after the next commissioner meeting.