Families, caregivers on front lines of opioid crisis hope federal money will help

Those personally affected by opioid abuse hope federal money will help fight the crisis. (Source: WLOX)

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Five years ago this month, Cheryl Howell’s daughter, Mandi, died of a drug overdose.

For Howell, the nightmare never ends.

“If I knew then what I know now, maybe my story or her story would have ended differently,” she said.

Howell is trying to pass on to others what she learned the hard way through Mandi’s Room, an interactive exhibit to teach parents on the signs of drug use.

“If I could go back and invade my daughter’s privacy, I’d do it in a minute. Because she was doing heroin in my house," she said.

Drug abuse is killing people and ripping families apart. Now, the Trump administration is targeting more than $19 million to Mississippi over three years to help fight the problem. The grants intend to expand access to treatment and support near real-time data on the crisis.

“That amount of money may get it started, but the problem isn't going away,” said Diane Easley, founder of Community Care Network. “It’s getting worse.”

Those on the front lines, like Easley, hope it will go to places like Sue’s Home, the longer-stay transitional home for women and children that she created to provide education and support after treatment.

“There aren’t enough beds to deal with this opioid crisis,” Easley said. “And there aren’t enough things after the primary care because they have to learn to walk life completely differently.”

Leslie Jones is a former resident of Sue’s Home. She grew up in a family of drug abusers and knows the importance of long-term transitional help.

“As a little girl, I remember watching my parents do drugs,” she said. “I could smell the marijuana, and that was just a way of life. I thought it was OK.”

She started using drugs at 16.

After having a baby, she tried to get herself clean, but it was hard. By then, she was in her mid-20s.

“My brain was full of chaos,” she said, but her re-direction began almost immediately.

“After one month of being in Sue’s Home, I realized that I had a family there,” Jones said. “And I was so grateful that they allowed children there because that’s all I wanted. I wanted to be a better mom and I didn’t want to be away from my daughter, and they helped me with that.”

Bottom line, she said, even with outside help, it takes something more to get out of the spiral.

“You have to realize that this isn’t life, and there’s so much more. There’s so much more to life than drugs. And I’m so thankful for everybody I’ve met. Because I can breathe," Jones said.

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