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Opioid Addicts In Recovery Find Challenges And Help In Getting Their Lives Back Together

When opioid addicts 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.  And there's a lot being done on the local level to help drug abusers get on the right track.

A handful of students sit in this classroom in an old school building on the south side of Columbus, developing in demand technology skills. 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. So that led to drinking as well as prescription drugs,” Givens said.

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 is trying to get his life together with help from Digitalworks, a company that has trained and placed more than 900 people in IT jobs since 2013. Stu Johnson said his organization helps a lot of people like Givens.  “Generally, about 50% of our participants are what I would call vulnerable populations, either chronic unemployment, generational poverty or background issues, generally related to addiction issues,” said Johnson.

Johnson said 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. 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 said.

Johnson says that’s why Digitalworks connects its clients with wrap around services to help them with transportation, mental health, financial literacy or other needs.  One of those organizations is Amethyst. It 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. Within eight 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 said.

Huddleston remembers the day she was arrested for burglary while her children were in the car with her. She said 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. She has very bad stories of watching Mommy puke on herself, Mommy and Daddy fighting over a needle,” said Huddleston. And Huddleston said she feels a lot of shame because she knows first hand how hard it is for a kid to grow up with a troubled childhood. "My dad brutally beat my mom for ten years. And then, about the age of six, he became very fond of me in ways that were not right.”

The managing director of Amethyst, Linda Janes, said 85% 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," Janes said.

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. Many of our women have been through other short term treatment programs and they haven’t been successful so it takes time," Janes explained.

Amethyst’s program has a 90% 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 is expensive. It costs 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.

Contact Jo Ingles at