BLUFFTON — Stephanie Jones knows exactly what addiction feels like.
In 2011, Jones had brain surgery and was put on a morphine pump to help her cope with the pain. She said what was supposed to be a 12- to 24-hour pump turned into two or three days of constant access to the highly potent narcotic. She was then put on 10 milligram Percocet, an opioid-based pain medication, and sent home.
“I started to need more and more, and when I couldn’t get any more from the doctor, I went to the streets,” Jones said. “I was buying 13 to 18 pills each time, and if I couldn’t get Percs, I’d turn to Vicodin or whatever.”
Jones’ addiction lasted just six months before her husband put a stop to it. She said he threw out all her pills and locked her in her room for five days as she detoxed.
“Had my husband not done what he did, I would have likely resorted to heroin because that’s always the next step,” she said.
Five years into recovery, Jones feels her calling is to use her experience with addiction to help others. In March, she founded the Heroin Epidemic Leadership Project, or HELP. The goal is to provide a safe and sober living community that administers long-term recovery services for those who suffer from substance abuse disorders.
Jones said the organization isn’t fully up and running, as they still need to attain more funding to purchase a building. She said they are waiting for the IRS to approve HELP’s nonprofit status.
“Once we get that, we are going to apply for federal and state grants,” Jones said. “Right now we’re relying on volunteers.”
But the lack of funding hasn’t stopped Jones from raising awareness about heroin addiction, or helping an addict when they reach out to her.
In May, Jones organized the first-ever Heroin Epidemic Leadership Project summit in Lima. Police officers, a sheriff’s deputy, hospital officials, former addicts, a doctor, judge, paramedics and many others from agencies offering services and treatment gathered to discuss the problem and potential solutions.
Since that time, Jones said she’s helped eight people find treatment in cities such as Columbus and Dayton.
“When my phone rings and it’s an addict who needs help, we get them into treatment,” she said.
With funding, Jones hopes to create a 24-hour recovery house where people with substance abuse disorders can find treatment in Lima. She said that by working with other addiction services such as Coleman and the local Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, she can provide comprehensive, evidence-based programming.
In addition to counseling services, 12-step programs and medically assisted treatment, Jones said she envisions an environment that allows addicts not only to fight the disease, but also turn their lives around.
“We’re trying to formulate a 12- to 24-month program for addicts that is completely structured, from financial management to getting their GED to job placement,” she said. “Working with all those aspects is the best way to tackle addiction.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima