An Uncommon Story – Ascension Recovery Services
First United Bank & Trust is proud to share this inspiring community story as part of its new series, Uncommon Stories.
From the outside, Ascension Recovery Services, headquartered in Morgantown, West Virginia, may look like any other group of recovery treatment centers and programs in the country. But dig deeper and you’ll learn that it was founded by CEO Doug Leech. Leech has gone through addiction and recovery himself, leading to a level of empathy, understanding, and commitment to its residents and community that’s unparalleled. That’s why First United Bank is proud to help share its uncommon story.
Leech grew up in Morgantown and had what he describes as a wonderful, active childhood. He played sports and mostly stayed out of trouble. Once he went away to college, though, things changed. He started drinking more and more. A broken nose led to a prescription for pain medication that he continued to refill until he couldn’t legally get any more pills. He stopped working, started couch surfing, looking for drugs, and swindling people out of money. Eventually, he was arrested in what he says was his rock bottom moment.
Luckily, Leech’s family stepped in to help support him and get him some help and treatment. The only problem? There were no treatment centers or facilities that existed in West Virginia at the time. He had to go out of state to Minnesota to find the care he needed.
“I was one of the lucky ones that had a family that could pay for me to go out of state for treatment,” Leech says. “My experience in Minnesota, going through treatment, and in a halfway house and then a sober house, it was so incredible, and I wanted other people to have that opportunity.”
When Leech returned to Morgantown, he started working again at an accounting firm, but he says his heart wasn’t into it. His real goal was to start offering local care and treatment programs closer to home. The Morgantown Sober Living House was his first project in 2016. Even though there was some pushback from the community, Leech continued to push and move forward, and he never gave up on his goal.
Leech continued to ask, how do we fill these gaps in care that doesn’t exist in West Virginia? “I knew that I was doing the right thing,” he says. “I knew how much it helped me. I knew we were going to be an asset to the community, so we just pushed forward.”
Since then, Ascension has grown tremendously. Today, it is divided into two divisions: clinical services and program development. They provide drug and alcohol interventions, ongoing monitoring services, treatment placements, and outpatient therapy. They also design and develop treatment centers nationally.
Leech also hires those who are going through or who have experienced recovery, creating a supportive staff that truly believes in the mission. They work with some of the top addiction experts from around the country who have decades of experience.
The staff at Ascension also supports and works closely with the families and communities of those going through addiction with individual and group therapy, and more. They often feel like they are suffering along with their family member, or feel helpless watching them go through it. “You know, it’s not just about the person affected,” Leech says. “It really affects the family, the community as a whole.”
Looking back, Leech says he has now found his life’s work and can’t see himself doing anything else. “My entire purpose and mission with Ascension was to improve access to care, not only in West Virginia but around the country,” Leech says. “We’re trying to transform lives and communities.”