Pastor opens addiction crisis center this week

WINCHESTER — A faith-based crisis center for people addicted to drugs and alcohol is set to open in Winchester on Wednesday as a non-secular alternative to court-ordered and volunteer drug rehabilitation programs.

The Winchester Teen Challenge Crisis Office is located at 115 Youth Development Court off of Shawnee Road. It is a non-residential facility, offering a 14-week recovery program.

The Rev. John M. Franich is director of the crisis center. For the past 16 years, he worked with the Shenandoah Valley Teen Challenge, another faith-based rehabilitation center. He said he’s working to combat the growing opiate addiction problem in the region.

“I’ve done this for 20 years now, and I’ve seen it work,” Franich said.

The center uses biblical teachings on attitude control, self-respect, failure, growth and positive thinking to help people break free from addiction and the negative behavior patterns that lead to it. Franich said it’s not a cookie cutter process, but tailor made to help each person find the help he or she needs.

Although the program is religious in nature, Franich said many of the people he worked with through the Shenandoah Valley Teen Challenge came because they had a problem, not because of any particular religious affiliation. They turned to religious teachings as a result of their sobriety.

“Everyone who comes to us isn’t looking to Christ for their answer, they’re coming because they have a problem,” Franich said.

Despite the tilt toward religion, Franich said the center’s main goal is to give help to those who need it. If a religious approach won’t work, Franich and his team help addicts find another route to sobriety.

Along with the rehabilitation program, the center sponsors the Stay Sharp intervention program, which hosts events at local schools and youth groups to encourage abstention from drugs and alcohol.

Drug addiction is a growing problem in Virginia and Shenandoah County. According to information provided by the Virginia Department of Health, 971 Virginians died of a drug overdose in 2015, although that number is subject to change pending a final report from the department. There were 992 people who died of a drug overdose in 2014, and 912 who died in 2013.

In Shenandoah County, 13 people died of a drug overdose in 2015, up from three in 2014 and four in 2013.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or