JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The opioid epidemic that’s sweeping the nation isn’t only ripping people’s lives apart, it's also taking its toll on charities designed to help the addicted.
Riverside Tradition House was established in 1971 to provide a safe home for men who want to recover from different types of substance abuse, including alcohol. But now, so many in need of help are suffering from some sort of opioid addiction. They said it's one of the hardest habits to break.
”I see the addiction still, man, and it’s everywhere,” Ian McCarthy said.
His intravenous heroin use stopped just short of taking his life.
”If you didn’t have help, where would I be right now? I'd be dead," he said.
Like many others, he turned to opioids to numb the emotional pain in his life.
"My last relapse took a toll on me," he said. "They found me overdosed in a different halfway house in town. By the time I got to the hospital I had stage 4 kidney failure.”
After spending two days in the Intensive Care Unit and two weeks in the hospital, McCarthy turned to the Riverside Tradition House to help him gain control of his life.
”I’ve always lacked structure, and there is a structure here,” McCarthy said.
"They’ve provided me with food and a job, and it provided a roof over my head -- it’s affordable to me,” William Patterson, who is recovering from an opioid addiction, said.
Patterson shared a similar story of recovery at the Riverside Tradition House after overdosing on fentanyl earlier this year. When he blacked out, he said his heart stopped, and when he woke up, he knew he needed professional help.
”I’ve been to other halfway houses, (but) this is the best, and we do need to do what we can to open up more availability to people,” Patterson said.
Residency at Riverside Tradition House is limited to 30 men. There is always a waiting list, and compared to years past, most men arrive addicted to opioids.
"A couple years ago, we saw an influx in heroin, and the oxy’s and roxy’s, semi synthetic opioids, and I would say today maybe 85 percent of the residents are here for that specific drug type they are using,” Riverside Tradition House manager Leigh Johnson said.
Johnson said the average age of a resident has also changed. Today’s addicts are often 20 years younger and need more time to become truly drug free. He said the demand for help is taking its toll.
"Now we’re at the place where we need additional funding, because this place is 46 years old," Johnson said. "We need new beds, mattresses, dressers, carpets, lamps, rewiring, there’s very old wiring in this house, our air conditions are on the verge of having to be replaced..."
Johnson said they help 100-120 men turn their lives around every year. He only wishes they could do more.
”I think some of the stuff, if you use it today you can be an addicted tomorrow,” Johnson said.
The Riverside Tradition House is a nonprofit organization, the board of directors are all volunteers and they were established by the Riverside Presbyterian Church. It is just one of several outreach programs making a difference in young men's lives.
Click here if you would like to make a donation to the Riverside Tradition House.
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