Northeast Ohio was instrumental to the creation and evolution of addiction treatment. Alcoholics Anonymous first started in Akron, Ohio before becoming a national movement combating alcohol addiction. And, that historic beginning also influenced the opening of the first private rehab center in the United States – the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center in Youngstown, Ohio.
The Center went through many changes throughout its history and provided important health care for some of Youngstown, Warren, and even the Pennsylvania area’s most vulnerable citizens. While operating, the NKRC became an essential helpline for those who needed it — a feat that will never be forgotten. The legacy of the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center reminds us all of the impact individuals can have when they come together.
The Neil Kennedy Recovery Center Through the Ages
The Neil Kennedy Recovery Center was first established in 1946. It went on to provide the Mahoning Valley and the surrounding communities with inpatient and outpatient detox and treatment programs centered on combating substance abuse for 77 years.
During this time, NKRC helped further substance abuse treatments and provided essential education and support groups in response to growing threats against the community’s behavioral health. Not only did these efforts help change and raise awareness about substance use in the northeast Ohio region, but they also helped shape how national treatment providers handle addiction.
The Treatment Facility Finds Its Start With A.A.
You can’t discuss the beginnings of the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center without mentioning its roots in Alcoholics Anonymous. AA was founded in Akron, Ohio in 1935. The organization started with a meeting between Bill Wilson and Robert Smith, who was known as Dr. Bob, a local surgeon.
Both had struggled with their own addiction to alcohol. Bill had searched for relief with the Oxford Group, a Christian Fellowship centered on the idea that change within an individual is possible. He took what he learned at the Oxford Group and used it to shape the structure of AA, including its well-known 12-Step Program.
Dr. Bob and Bill met through Oxford Group meetings in 1935, and the two began to hold one another accountable in the search for sobriety. Together they created Alcoholics Anonymous, with its founding date coinciding with Dr. Bob’s last alcoholic drink: June 10, 1935.
Dr. Bob went on to act as the sponsor for Neil Kennedy himself after Kennedy joined AA.
Opening the Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic in Youngstown, Ohio
The NKRC treatment center initially opened under the name of the Youngstown Committee on Alcoholism in 1946, with Jack Deibel and Neil Kennedy at the helm. The center operated under this name until it became the Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic in the 1990s.
The First Private Treatment Center for Alcohol Abuse
The NKRC made history by being the nation’s first private and freestanding alcoholism treatment facility, located on Lincoln Ave in Youngstown.
During this time, there was still a lot of stigma surrounding alcoholism, substance abuse, and the power of cognitive behavioral therapy. At the time, many people viewed addiction as a moral failing rather than a treatable mental health disorder. Neil Kennedy’s first-hand experience with alcohol addiction and recovery helped to establish a more empathetic approach to treatment.
However, it wouldn’t be until 1956 that the American Medical Association declared Alcoholism a diagnosable illness that could be treated – ten years after the NKRC began its work.
In 1967, the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center moved from its historic Lincoln Ave. location to 2151 Rush Blvd, where its headquarters would remain as it expanded its services to Austintown, Howland, and Dublin, Ohio.
Becoming a Drug Rehab and Substance Abuse Treatment Center
After the NKRC moved to Rush Boulevard, it continued to expand its services as a substance abuse treatment provider. As the 1970s drew to a close, it began to operate as a drug rehab facility, as well. Initially, the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center offered outpatient treatment, but it eventually grew to include inpatient detox facilities.
In 1987, NKRC developed Women to Women – a gender-specific program that separated the clinic equally for inpatient detox and drug rehab services. Initially, the facility had 16 beds – eight for men and eight for women – who were undergoing treatment.
NKRC based its treatment programs on evidence-based practices and AA’s 12-step program. Thanks to its strong ties within the community, it also had therapists available to take care of patients’ behavioral health while they stayed at the facility. NKRC received accreditation from the Joint Commission, and over the years, their services expanded to include intensive outpatient aftercare after detoxification, with treatment options that included partial hospitalization and sober living.
Joining Gateway Rehab
As its services expanded, so did its reputation. In 1999, the Gateway Rehab network decided to make NKRC a part of its rehab facility family. Gateway Rehab began in the 1970s and became the largest drug rehabilitation network in the Pittsburgh area.
Community Outreach and Education
During its run, the Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic did more than just try to treat alcohol and substance abuse; it also worked hard to prevent it. As heroin and opioid addiction rates rose within the Mahoning Valley, NKRC partnered with community leaders to provide important educational services like hosting community summits on the impact of substance abuse.
They offered training services to community workplaces and local students so that they could identify the signs of addiction in their friends and loved ones. They also hosted AA meetings and support groups at their Fellowship Hall.
The Neil Kennedy Recovery Center Closes Its Doors
At the end of 2022, NKRC announced that it would be closing its doors. The news came after the Gateway Rehabilitation Network decided to end its partnership with the treatment facility. It was also announced that Gateway would be closing Glebam House, a transitional housing treatment facility.
The loss of the Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic was a swift one, with Gateway announcing the closure in early December, and the NKRC closing its doors on December 31st.
The Neil Kennedy Recovery Center Legacy Lives On at Meridian HealthCare
The Neil Kennedy Recovery Center was the longest-standing, private rehab facility in the nation and its closure has significant importance to the people of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.
That’s why Meridian HealthCare made it our mission to take on the majority of NKRC’s patients, services, and staff so that the treatment facility’s legacy can live on – and most importantly, so those who need help with addiction treatment can continue receiving quality care.
Closing the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center brings an end to the long-lasting history of establishing effective addiction treatment in the Valley and beyond, but the need for its services continues. Meridian offers several addiction recovery programs in order to support the community, including outpatient treatment, residential treatment, withdrawal management and detox, along with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). NKRC’s mission was to help patients through their recovery treatment, and Meridian is here to continue that mission.
If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse disorder, you don’t have to go through it alone. Meridian HealthCare has supported the Valley with addiction treatment and behavioral health services for 50 years and will continue to stand with Valley residents for many more. Reach out today to find the help you need.
Phone number: 330-797-0070