OPIOID CRISIS: New Hamilton County program helping those with opioid addiction
A relatively new program in Hamilton County is giving those struggling with opioid addiction a real chance at recovery.
"I just completely fell down a horrible hole," Kelsey McCormick said.
"I almost died if someone wouldn't have found me at the gas station I was at in my car, I wouldn't be sitting here doing this interview," Kevin Sharber added.
Addiction took Kelsey and Kevin down a dark path.
Their stories are similar. Both, at 25 years old, said they started using opiates as teenagers.
Kelsey said she started smoking weed at 13, and by 15 she was using opiates.
"My brothers were really bad opiate addicts and that made it pretty easy for me to be able to get," she added.
The spiral continued. Kelsey started using harder drugs like heroin and meth, to the point she lost custody of her children.
Kevin started using drugs through his veins, traveling to Atlanta to get his supply and selling on the streets of Chattanooga just to avoid withdrawal.
"We're right in the middle of Atlanta and Nashville. So we have two of the biggest highways in the country coming right through here. That's why there's so much here," he said.
Both said Narcan brought them back from overdosing.
And each decided to turn to a new program in Chattanooga called Nu-Start.
They started out with 15 clients in January 2019.
By August, the program had 70.
"Whether you have insurance or not, we will help you get whatever kind of treatment it is that you need. Whatever kind of recovery assistance that you need. Regardless of your financial situation. It doesn't matter. We're going to do whatever it takes to get you on the right path," Nu-Start Program Coordinator Leslie Lay said.
Michael Meriweather said the program is aimed at treating more than just the addict. It aims at helping the addict's family too.
"Those services could include anything from helping kids get into a summer program, get a mentor, go to the Y. Counseling for sure. And that's for the caregivers of those children as well," Meriweather added.
Nu-Start is also there after treatment is complete, making sure those like Kelsey and Kevin are supported through their path to sobriety.
Even when you've made it through treatment, you're still overwhelmed, you don't know what to do. What kind of aftercare program do I need? We're here to do all of that legwork for them," Lay added.
While they still deal with the cravings that come with addiction, they're learning how to work through them and getting their lives back.
"I never want to do it again, I'd be lying if I said there was no temptation whatsoever. But very little," Kevin said.
"It's amazing that I'm here and I'm sober today," Kelsey added.
To learn more about Nu-Start, click HERE.
To contact Nu-Start, call 423-208-3523 or 423-208-3473.