MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The members of Region 4 of the West Virginia First Foundation (WVFF), the organization created to distribute nearly $1 billion in opioid settlement money, have selected Jon Dower as the next representative.

The initial selection was Jonathan Board, who was selected to serve as Executive Director of the WVFF after being elected as the Region 4 representative, creating the vacancy.

Dower received overwhelming support from representatives from the 63 municipalities and 13 counties in the region.

“I’m just really honored that a lot of elected officials across our region showed confidence in me,” Dower said. “I am prepared and willing to go above and beyond to make sure Region 4 is represented well at the West Virginia First Foundation.”

Dower called the opportunity a generational one that could set a new future course for communities ravaged by the opioid crisis. Dower said it’s important to heal but also to grow.

“We can make a huge impact, not just on individuals that are experiencing substance abuse disorder, but on the economics of our region,” Dower said. “Really changing the narrative and finding one that’s about growth, expansion, and change.”

Dower, also in long-term recovery, has a Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling and is certified as an Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Clinical Supervisor. He is the Executive Director for West Virginia Sober Living and the Director of Recovery Services for Ascension Recovery Services. He also serves on the Governor’s Task Force on Substance Misuse and Prevention as the Chair of the Recovery Subcommittee.

“I’m lucky enough to have the best of both worlds with having the academic background working in this field for over a decade as well as being in recovery for over a decade,” Dower said. “These things collectively can bring a voice to people that are out there still experiencing substance use disorder.”

Dower was nominated by the city of Morgantown and Monongalia County. Commissioner Tom Bloom said he wants the region to seize this opportunity and learn from the failures of the tobacco settlement.

“I see that with as many people as we have in this room, we are going to make sure to come up with programs that are going to help each one of our communities,” Bloom said.

WVFF Executive Director Jonathan Board attended the election meeting and said the framework for the grant process is being developed. The board said every step and action they take is a first for the foundation, so they are cautiously moving with haste.

“We’re working with everyone involved,” the board said. “We can do a lot of things, but what’s most important is that we need to get tools in the hands of doers; that’s the job.”

Also nominated for the position was Dr. James Barry, Professor and Chair of the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute and Director of Addictions.