Henry had everything going for him. After he attended college in Ohio on a basketball scholarship, he got married and had kids, started his own business and employed 30 people.
But addiction cost him everything.
He ended up at the Hope Center, where he graduated from the recovery program in 2004. He began working with the Wounded Warrior Project and is employed by a law firm as a disability advocate. Henry used to dread going before a judge. Now he is paid to do it. And he has slowly reconnected with his children.
His story illustrates the impact drug abuse has on all components of society — family, community, economy. Henry’s health and well-being impact not just him but everyone he touches.
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It’s success stories like Henry’s that attracted the attention of U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who recently toured the Hope Center along with Gov. Matt Bevin, Congressman Andy Barr and former Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
Carson is examining solutions to the growing drug epidemic and wanted to visit facilities that are part of the Recovery Kentucky program, a network of 17 residential recovery centers. The Hope Center and the Healing Place in Louisville were the models for this program, a joint effort among the Kentucky Housing Corporation, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Local Government.
Recovery Kentucky clients have had remarkable declines in drug use, mental-health problems, homelessness and incarceration.
Clients often are dealing with multiple, inter-connected problems that have resulted in their addiction. But through long-term, residential recovery, their illegal drug use dropped from 86 percent to 12 percent, and incarceration rates dropped from 69 percent to 11 percent.
Results from Hope Center clients are equally impressive. Upon entry, 61 percent of male clients reported opioid misuse within the previous six months; at follow-up 12 months later, only 6 percent reported misuse within the previous six months. In addition, 40 percent reported such heroin use at entry to Phase I; at follow-up none reported heroin use in the previous six months.
Our women’s recovery program also has strong results with drug use, dropping from 89 percent to 8 percent;, depression declining from 79 percent to 9 percent and homelessness from 30 percent to no one being homeless.
The Hope Center’s success can be a national model on how to help communities teach people what they need to know and do to stay off the street. There are three key factors:
▪ Length of the program: Individuals who complete the program and the transition period typically reside at the recovery center for six to 12 months. This makes it possible for them to build a solid foundation for recovery and to address other issues they may face, such as mental illness or a history of being the victim of domestic abuse.
▪ Partnerships: The Hope Center works with public partners at the local, state and federal levels. We also leverage private resources through strong community support. Everyone has a stake in our success. Children need the financial and emotional support of their parents; employers need a drug-free, reliable work force; and communities need safety and reliable, productive citizens.
▪ Multi-phase components: Clients first work the 12-step program with the assistance of peer-to-peer mentoring, emphasizing both personal responsibility and mutual accountability. Phase II focuses on after-care — helping clients re-enter society without going back to the same bad habits and environments. By helping them find affordable housing and employment, they are equipped to integrate back into society and live up to their family obligations.
Our citizens, families, economy and communities depend on long-term recovery as the answer to the drug epidemic, especially the growing problem of opioid abuse. Kentucky may have been ground zero for the problem, but we also can be the leader in creating the solution.
Cecil Dunn is executive director of the Hope Center.
Related: Herald-Leader article, “Ben Carson tours Lexington center, focusing on homelessness, addiction and recovery”