CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Lou Ortenzio, Executive Director of the Clarksburg Mission, has announced plans to retire. Ortenzio has been with the Clarksburg Mission since 2009 and has served as the Executive Director since 2019.
Before that, Ortenzio was a physician for more than 25 years who was caught up in the opioid crisis. Ortenzio lost his medical license in 2006 for fraudulently prescribing drugs after he became addicted to opioids.
For many years, Ortenzio watched people retire and heard them say things like,” I knew it was my time, and you’ll know when it’s your time.”
His wife was instrumental in his recovery years ago, and she began to talk about spending a week or even a weekend at the beach or visiting children out-of-state. Then it happened.
“Until that one day, when I knew exactly where I was driving and I looked over at her in the car, I thought,” Man, this just has to happen,” Ortenzio said. “Out of respect and love for her, I need to hang up the bigger part of this work that I do for at least a while.”
Despite his retirement, Ortenzio will remain the West Virginia State Representative Team Lead for Celebrate Recovery. He also plans to volunteer in the community and get involved as his time and passion allow.
“Serving is all part of recovery; if you’re not grateful and you’re not serving, you’re really not in recovery,” Ortenzio said. “If you’re not grateful and you’re not serving, you’re really not a Christian the way you’re supposed to be—you really don’t get God’s grace in your life.”
Celebrate Recovery is a program for all ages and can treat people suffering from just about any addiction, from drugs to gambling to pornography. The program serves teens as well as older people in their journey to find sobriety or peace, and Ortenzio wants to raise the profile. The group currently meets in four Harrison County churches.
“It’s a Christ-based recovery program that’s an international ministry that we really need to get promoted in West Virginia. We have a presence, but it could really help a lot of people,” Ortenzio said.
Ortenzio has watched the development of the West Virginia First Foundation and hopes to contribute to that effort as the organization ramps up operations. He said his experiences with addiction and with the Clarksburg Mission could be of value to others in the state.
“I’d love to be a resource to them,” Ortenzio said. “I do notice none of the appointees are in recovery or have recovery experience, and certainly the folks I’ve talked to are open-minded about hearing other perspectives.”
While in Clarksburg, Ortenzio appeared in a CNN Townhall program entitled America Addicted with Anderson Cooper representing the mission and established two sober living homes in the Clarksburg area.
On the state of addiction treatment, Ortenzio said there are still people struggling with post-pandemic issues that need help, and that will continue to be a future need across the state.
“I think there’s an opportunity to do more work to prevent problems in the future and make all these traumatized people more resilient,” Ortenzio said. “I’d like to spend more time on that, whatever that looks like.”