Nine years after losing his grandson, Dallas Gay said he “can’t think of anything that would have honored him more” than the creation of the Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. Recovery Center.
“I know if Jeffrey had J’s Place after he relapsed, I think he’d still be here, and J’s would be named for somebody else,” Dallas Gay said. “I really think it would (have) made the difference in him living and surviving.”
Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. died in October 2012 from an opioid overdose one month shy of his 22nd birthday, and the recovery center, known as J’s Place, had its grand opening in February 2019.
On Tuesday, members of the Gay family gathered with supporters and board members outside of the Lanier Park Drive facility for the ribbon cutting ceremony of a massive addition to J’s Place.
Dallas Gay and the Gay family have pushed for greater opioid addiction awareness in the Gainesville community. Along with other community collaboration, this advocacy eventually led to the Partnership for a Drug Free Hall, which has hosted multiple events since 2017 with experts on addiction-related topics. A $250,000 grant from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disorders in 2018 would lead to what is now J’s Place.
J’s Place is now in a building more than five times larger than its previous facility, jumping to 7,000 square feet compared to 1,200 square feet on Juanita Avenue.
“It means that we have not only room for the peers that we’re currently serving but to grow,” executive director Jordan Hussey said. “It means that they have a safe place to come and read literature, to work out, to play ping pong.”
Hussey said she knew when she took over as executive director that J’s Place needed a bigger space, but she said she “could not fathom a space this size” along with the amount of community support.
Dallas Gay said the center has become a “significant organization in our community to help those that are trying to stay in recovery.”
In its infancy, the center rendered roughly 40 services per month. Now, that number is up to 1,300 services rendered each month, whether it is support meetings, individual coaching or other help.
“At Juanita, we bought a really big tent because of COVID and everything, we needed to be safely distanced,” J’s Place board member Reese Daniel said. “In here, we have got a big group room that allows that to happen without having to put the tent up.”
Beyond the big group room, there are offices, a kitchen and a gym.
Hussey said it was very emotional to see so many supporters gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday. Having spoken with members of the Gay family, Hussey said they were “as awestruck as I am.”
Though she couldn’t share too many details currently, Hussey said the center was collaborating with Hall County Treatment Services, the Hall County Jail and the Gainesville Police Department in expanding staff and services.