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Columbus Groups Provide Support On The Long Road Of Addiction Recovery

Digital Works

A handful of students sit in a classroom, inside an old school building on the South Side of Columbus. Columbus resident David Givens is one of them.

The former University of Cincinnati student studied information technology for three years before dropping out to take a full time job to support his first child. His mother passed away around the same time. He became depressed and was in and out of jobs.

“You know, I was hanging out with a group of friends and all we did was party,” Givens says. “So that led to drinking as well as prescription drugs.”

Givens was convicted of drug and other crimes and went to prison. Now that he’s out, he’s learning new job skills and looking for a company to give him a chance so he can provide for his six kids.

“I put my children first and they look at me as their hero so I can’t let them down,” Givens says.  

When people with opioid addiction try to put their lives back together, it is often difficult to get the housing, jobs, continuing treatment and personal connections they need to stay clean and be successful. 

Givens is trying to get his life together with help from Digital Works, a company that has trained and placed more than 900 people in IT jobs since 2013. Stu Johnson says his organization helps a lot of people like Givens.

“Generally, about 50 percent of our participants are what I would call vulnerable populations, either chronic unemployment, generational poverty or background issues, generally related to addiction issues,” Johnson says.

Johnson says while his organization focuses on job training and employment, it works with other existing services to help those fighting addiction.

“One of the symptoms of addiction is it takes everything from you," Johnson says. "It takes your family. It takes your friends. It takes your money. It takes your benefits. It takes your entire support system and then it takes you.”

Johnson says that’s why Digital Works connects its clients with organizations to help them with transportation, mental health, financial literacy or other needs.

One of those organizations is Amethyst, which provides housing, counseling and support services to about 150 women each year as they battle back from drug addiction.

Rachel Huddleston, a Columbus area mother of four, is working to overcome the heroin addiction she developed after discovering her husband was hooked on it.

“And I started doing heroin at the age of 26,” Huddleston says. “Within 8 months, my life had spiraled out of control. I had overdosed twice in front of my children. I had to be taken to the hospital and brought back to life.”

Huddleston remembers the day she was arrested for burglary while her children were in the car with her. She says her three older daughters have been getting counseling to deal with what they’ve experienced.

“My oldest has PTSD because she has seen me repeatedly beat up,” Huddleston says. “She has very bad stories of watching Mommy puke on herself, Mommy and Daddy fighting over a needle.”

Huddleston says she feels a lot of shame because she knows, firsthand, how hard it is for a kid to grow up with a troubled childhood.

“My dad brutally beat my mom for 10 years,” she says. “And then, about the age of six, he became very fond of me in ways that were not right.”

Linda James, the managing director of Amethyst, says 85 percent of the women and families served by her organization have either mental health or trauma issues that need to be treated before the addiction. 

“If a client has traumatic circumstances in their background, what we have discovered is until we break through that trauma, until we get to the root of that, that client is not ready in any way, shape or form to begin the treatment process,” James says.

Because of that, Amethyst is a longer-term program. The average length of stay is 21 months.

“Because what we have found is six months doesn’t do it, nine months doesn’t do it, sometimes 12 months doesn’t do it,” James says. “Many of our women have been through other short term treatment programs and they haven’t been successful so it takes time.”

Amethyst’s program has a 90 percent success rate. It can help 100 clients at a time and the demand for services is high.

Janes would like more money so it can expand to meet the need. But it’s expensive, costing an average of $10,300 annually per client. But if that woman was sent to prison for her drug abuse it would cost the state $26,300 annually to incarcerate her.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.