WYSO launched the Recovery Stories project in 2018 as part of an effort to better understand what’s happening with opioid addiction and recovery in the Dayton region. The project includes six audio stories aired on WYSO and other Ohio Public Radio-network stations, as well as a number of other NPR member stations across Appalachia.
WYSO kicked off Recovery Stories with a special live community event and celebration at a theatre space in downtown Dayton.
An Evening of Questions, Conversation and Community
The event began with questions.
As they entered the theatre, attendees posted their questions about Dayton’s opioid epidemic, addiction and recovery to the WYSO question board.
Some of the questions included:
“How can a layperson understand opiate and addiction-related legislation?”
“How receptive are health-care providers and insurance companies to medication-assisted treatment?”
“Is there a better/more effective way the community can coordinate with authorities to report/monitor dealers?”
“What will it take to stop the epidemic?”
“How much money is enough to save a life?”
“Where can I turn if I’m worried about a family member or friend?”
“How can we better facilitate recovery for both addicts and families?”
“When will families be included in treatment programs?”
During the show, producers collected questions from the board, and used them to spark a discussion among audience members and invited guests.
Speaking Up, Talking Back
Attendees also posed their questions directly to Helen Jones-Kelley, executive director of Montgomery County’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services department.
People opened up about their experiences navigating Ohio’s mental health-care system, and about some of the challenges faced by people seeking detox and drug treatment in Dayton.
These included what people said were long waiting lists for detox beds, the often high cost of drug treatment, and a mental-health system they said is not transparent enough, is too confusing to navigate in an emergency or overdose situation, and too-expensive for many people struggling with addiction to afford.
Recovery Stories participant Lori Erion also fielded questions from the audience.
Erion told the crowd about her personal journey from addiction to recovery, and talked about her own daughter’s more recent struggles with opioids. Erion says these experiences informed her decision to start the growing Dayton nonprofit advocacy and support group FOA Families of Addicts.
“Two-thirds of American families have been touched by addiction. It is really hugely important that we get the word out that people can, and do, get better,” Erion says.
“I wanted a place where our families could feel like they’re not alone, not feel ashamed, and miraculously enough, after they come for a while they shed that shame and the guilt, and they are out letting people know that we’re OK, you can be OK. So, I’m hopeful that we can turn this thing around,” she says.
Stories of Loss, Stories of Love, Stories of Hope and Healing
WYSO producers played tape of Recovery Stories interviews featuring participants Sarah Clay and Kathy Stewart, and Andre Lewis and William Roberts. Afterwards, Sarah Clay, Andre Lewis and William Roberts took the stage to reflect on their stories, take questions from audience members and talk about how their lives have changed in recovery.
“It feels good to hear people tell me they’re proud of me. People can see the change in me. I’m just completely a different person today. And I like that person,” Clay says.
Roberts, Lewis’ recovery sponsor, is celebrating nearly three decades clean after a 1980s and 1990s-era addiction to crack cocaine that led him to years behind bars.
“My relationship with Andre is a constant reminder that you don’t give up on people. But I was not one who got it the first time either. I had six treatment interventions before it stuck,” says Roberts, a church pastor who works in social services in Dayton.
As the event wrapped up, Jones-Kelley distributed information packets including nearby opioid detox and drug-treatment resources. She also shared information on the City of Dayton’s new, free GetHelpNow smartphone app, which she says was developed to help people in need of assistance quickly connect to a network of relevant service providers.
Some in the audience said they hoped the app would help more Daytonians get clean and avoid a potentially deadly overdose.
Asked for their final thoughts and feedback on the live event, many in the crowd agreed that people affected by opioid addiction needed more opportunities to come together in public, to show that, “recovery is possible,” and to resist the stigma often associated with addiction.
One audience member asked, “how can we share more stories?”
More About WYSO’s Recovery Stories
This story is part of WYSO’s Recovery Stories series.
The series was produced by Jess Mador, with assistance from WYSO Community Voices producer Jocelyn Robinson. Original photos by Maddie McGarvey.
Additional project digital support from 100 Days in Appalachia.