XENIA TOWNSHIP — A long-time pillar in the Miami Valley area recovery community who has helped thousands of men and women over the past two decades is taking the position of director of recovery services at the Emerge Recovery & Trade Initiative.
Nathan Crago, a longtime TCN staff member and former director of the Christopher House who is actively involved in a wide range of recovery-based organizations and other types of recovery work throughout the Greater Dayton area, officially steps into the role Monday, Oct. 3.
“I am excited about this place,” Crago said. “This truly has the potential to change a lot of lives. I love the mission here and the place is extremely unique. I feel like everyone has their hearts in the right place. From what I’ve seen, the mission here isn’t merely one of financial gain. The mission here is about saving lives.”
A Beavercreek native who just celebrated 20 years of continuous clean time in July, Crago has been an essential staple at TCN Behavioral Health Services for the past 18 years. He is credited for helping to take the renowned men’s treatment center in Xenia, the Christopher House, from 15 beds at one location to nearly 80 beds in multiple locations across multiple counties with a wide range of men’s and women’s sober housing and other outpatient services.
In 2015, Crago also co-founded the Hope Spot in Xenia with Amy Pulver. He has extensive ties to the regional recovery community with extensive involvement in the area’s 12-step communities. Working with local governments, local law enforcement agencies and other community leaders throughout the region, Crago has built an impeccable career in the past two decades helping people who’ve had nowhere else to turn.
“This is a new challenge for me,” he said. “The long-term plan is to have a full continuum of treatment here, with housing and vocational training for men and women. There’s also the Emancipation Program. We want to have all the wrap-around services for youth emancipated from the state’s foster care system as well.”
Crago said the timing of Emerge lines up perfectly with the current workforce climate and the increasing demand for skilled trade employees.
“This couldn’t have come at a better time,” he said. “This has the potential to change a lot of lives. It can be a little scary for me walking away from something I’ve been doing for so long, but it is also very exciting.”
One of the things that attracted Crago to Emerge was the potential for growth. He describes the place as a full-blown recovery campus with tons of potential that could easily scale statewide.
“This could definitely scale,” he said. “This could be the blueprint and the sky is the limit. So far, it looks like we have all the right people. I feel very optimistic about the talent we have here. Moving forward, we plan to hire good counselors and counselors who are well-connected to the recovery community.”
With the skilled workforce steadily declining throughout the nation and addictions steadily on the rise, Crago said the employment aspect is an essential component for people trying to walk into long-term recovery successfully and walk away from a life of drugs and alcohol.
“There are so many important things tied into gainful employment other than income,” Crago said. “Gainful employment helps people in recovery with their sense of self-worth and their self-esteem. It’s also important to have financial security and financial independence.”
Second-chance employers like Five Star also provide structure for employees and bring accountability to the table.
With 20 years in the local recovery community, the opioid epidemic is something that hits close to home for Crago. He said it is only getting worse and while a lot of people don’t want to talk about it, he is grateful to see the owners of Emerge stepping up to do something about it in a way no one else is doing.
“This epidemic is absolutely horrible,” he said. “And it seems to be getting worse. We went from an opioid epidemic to what now appears to be a methamphetamine and opioid epidemic. People are dying in large numbers. I’ve seen over a hundred deaths in the past few years, whether it be clients or friends.”
Crago has a master’s degree in mental health counseling. Within the next couple months, he will also have his certification as a licensed independent chemical dependency counselor and a licensed professional counselor, which are the highest levels of certification a professional can attain in the fields of substance use and mental health.
“I am very excited about the future,” Crago said. “I know the people behind this mission are going to make this happen. We are going to make this a success. I’ve met with enough people here at Emerge to know these people have their hearts in the right place. I’m also trusting God on this. This place is truly one of a kind.”