Sunrise Recovery opens drop-in center

A CUT ABOVE: Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness Executive Director Sue Polston, center, holds the scissors for the ribbon-cutting Jan. 19 at the center's new location in the Westgate Shopping Center on Patton Avenue. Photo by Jodi Ford

Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness opened a new drop-in center in the Westgate Shopping Center on Patton Avenue. The nonprofit recovery community organization, which employs almost 50 peer support specialists, held the center’s grand opening Jan. 19. The center has been open since late December.

“I’m so grateful to be part of something that saves and changes people’s lives,” Executive Director Sue Polston told guests.

Mountain Area Health Education Center peer support Kevin Mahoney launched Sunrise in 2016, and the center has been at numerous locations throughout the years. “This place is a gift to all of you,” Mahoney told the assembled crowd on Jan. 19. He credited the late Blair H. Clark of Parkway Behavioral Health and a founding member of Sunrise, for inspiring the nonprofit’s existence and choked up as he read an excerpt of Clark’s writing.

Sunrise’s new space contains several large rooms furnished with couches, bean bag chairs and a large table and chairs. Groups meeting at Sunrise throughout the week will include those for Alcoholics Anonymous, women-only, artists and Self-Management and Recovery Training. The drop-in center also offers reiki and Thai massage therapy several times a month. Mahoney says he’ll teach classes on interviewing skills and crisis deescalation to peer support specialists.

The need for recovery support services has increased steadily. From 2016-20, Sunrise had 15,000 peer interactions in the recovery community, Polston told the crowd. (Peer interactions include phone calls as well as meetings.) During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21, the organization saw 14,000 peer interactions. In 2022, its peer interactions more than doubled to 33,000.

Kevin Rumley, a board member for Sunrise who is in recovery, isn’t surprised at the organization’s popularity. He tells Xpress it’s important to have “a place that is safe for people in recovery … ideally to connect them to services.” He underscored the need for people experiencing addiction to have community and not live in isolation.

Asheville is “on the cutting edge of recovery communities,” added Rumley. He says the city is home to many people in recovery because it has so many people dedicated to fighting the stigma of addiction. “There needs to be hope out there.” For more information about Sunrise, visit

County hears domestic violence fatality update

Members of the Buncombe Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team spoke before the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Jan. 17 to present its 2022 report and provide an update on domestic violence in the community.

According to the report, calls related to domestic violence for fiscal year 2022, which began in July, are up from the previous year. The team also reported that the county had three domestic violence- or intimate partner-related homicides during 2021 (the most recent year data was available).

More information about the team can be found at

New mental health facility to open

The Sweeten Creek Mental Health and Wellness Center is slated to open in early 2023. The 120-bed center will be a new behavioral health facility for Mission Health and will serve adolescent, pediatric, adult and geriatric patients.

The facility is located on 26 acres off Sweeten Creek Road and will offer outdoor recreation space, gardening, a therapy gymnasium, music and art therapy and more.

“We are furthering our investment in our Western North Carolina community by providing this much-needed facility and adding additional resources to care for the area we serve,” says Mission Hospital CEO Chad Patrick in a statement provided by spokesperson Nancy Lindell.

Student health program wins grant

Dogwood Health Trust granted $173,845 to the Student Health Ambassador program at UNC Asheville and five other local colleges.

The student-informed peer education program launched in 2020, when ambassadors focused their work on reducing COVID infections on campus and bringing meals to students who were in isolation due to an infection. Now the program includes the promotion of mental wellbeing.

In addition to public health education for students, the grant will fund a campus community health needs survey at UNCA, Montreat College, Western Carolina University, Brevard College, Mars Hill University and Warren Wilson College.

The nonprofit Dogwood Health Trust was created from the $1.5 billion sale of Mission Health in February 2019 to HCA Healthcare. The trust funds programs that advance community wellness in 18 Western North Carolina counties and the Qualla Boundary.

Mars Hill receives recovery funding for students

Mars Hill University in Mars Hill is the recipient of a $75,770 grant from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to start a program for college students in recovery.

The funds are meant to improve behavioral health and recovery services for adolescents and young adults in colleges. According to an NCDHHS press release, these services include drug- and alcohol-free places and locations for students to live, study and socialize; peer mentorship; alcohol- and drug-free social activities for students; and collegiate recovery programming.

Mars Hill University is one of nine colleges in the state to receive a total of $3.2 million in grants to address this need.

Hats off

  • Pardee UNC Health Care has named neurologist Dr. Joel Callahan as chief of staff. His two-year term as chief of staff began Jan. 1. Callahan has been at Pardee since 2011, most recently serving as the medical director of Pardee Neurology Associates.
  • Oncologist Dr. James Radford, who retired in 2021 from Pardee UNC Health Care, received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine on Jan. 9. The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is the highest award for state service granted by the Office of the Governor.
  • Dogwood Health Trust announced Carol Burton of Jackson County and Jamie McMahan of Yancey County as members of its board of directors. Burton is vice provost for academic affairs at Western Carolina University, while McMahan is executive director of the Yancey County Planning & Economic Development Commission.
  •, an online resource to connect patients to doctors, ranked Mission Hospital one of America’s 50 best hospitals and ranked it one of the nation’s top 100 hospitals for cardiac, gastrointestinal and pulmonary care. also ranked Pardee UNC Health Care of Hendersonville No.1 in stroke care. The site also ranked the hospital as one of America’s 100 best hospitals for the second year in a row.

Mark your calendars

  • Asheville Parks & Recreation fitness centers at Linwood Crump Shiloh Community Center, 121 Shiloh Road, and Stephens-Lee Community Center, 30 George Washington Carver Ave., are offering the public free, unlimited visits through June 30. Visit for hours, phone, indoor and outdoor features and current programs.
  • The Blood Connection is holding a blood drive 1-6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, at Highland Brewing Co., 12 Old Charlotte Highway. To schedule an appointment, visit
  • The N.C. Council on Churches is holding a free webinar 11a.m.-noon Monday, Jan. 30, about its mental health grants. The grants are available to faith communities mainly composed of Indigenous people, Black people or people of color. RSVP for the webinar at
  • The WNC Health Network will host a two-day, results-based accountability training called “Getting To Results” 9-11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, and Tuesday, Feb. 7. The trainings are offered on a sliding scale of $75-$300 and are open to nonprofit organizations, funders, public health agencies and hospital representatives. For more information visit
  • The Resilience Festival will be held Saturday, April 29, from 3 p.m. onward at Grey Eagle Outpost, 521 Amboy Road. The festival will feature tai chi, Zumba and yoga, as well as demonstrations from a variety of wellness practitioners. The event will raise money for Resilient Voices, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that hosts retreats for sexual assault survivors in the Asheville area.

UPDATE 2/2/23: This article has been updated with the correct website for Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness. 


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About Jessica Wakeman
Jessica Wakeman is an Asheville-based reporter for Mountain Xpress. She has been published in Rolling Stone, Glamour, New York magazine's The Cut, Bustle and many other publications. She was raised in Connecticut and holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from New York University. Follow me @jessicawakeman

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