Recovery Centers Taking on Sussex County Heroin Problem - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Recovery Centers Taking on Sussex County Heroin Problem

(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)
SEAFORD, Del. - Sussex County's heroin-related arrests have tripled since 2011, according to police. As the number of heroin-related calls grows, so does the number of people needing help. 

Many people say there is a lack of resources when it comes to helping people recover from addictions. The A.C.E. Peer Recovery Center in Seaford says their main focus is peer to peer counseling and helping the community one person at a time. 

Acceptance, change, empowerment is something Jim Martin knows first-hand. 

"I started in Delaware homeless, jobless, car-less, debit-cardless, hopeless, pointless," said Martin.

He was battling addiction and ended up in a shelter in Wilmington. He said when he started focusing his efforts on helping a woman who was asked to leave the shelter. 

"Six years later, I'm here at the A.C.E. Center," said Martin. 

Six years clean and sober. 

Now Martin helps others dealing with homelessness and addiction, especially heroin.

"If you look at the statewide problem, Seaford is number three as far as heroin-related crime," said Martin. "I would say the heroin problem is about 20 percent of our efforts here."

Why is it such a problem? Delaware State Police say it's cheap, just $10 to $15 a bag. 

As the number of people struggling with addiction grows, more people are looking for help and searching for a place to stay. There are several groups in the county that offer half-way housing, and about 45 churches that do what they can. There's a program called "Shift Destiny" started by John Rittenhouse, whose own son suffers from heroin addiction and is currently serving time.  In the winter, Code Purple shelters open in the county when the temperature dips below 32 degrees. However, on the average day, Martin says there are just 20 emergency shelter beds available in Sussex County.

Martin's facility offers donated tents and bicycles to those who need them. It's something he and the facility have been criticized for.

"We do what we can. When people are homeless and there's no money it's hard to find resources and Sussex County is thin on resources right now. So, we have to be creative," said Martin.

The recovery center is open Monday through Friday until 4 p.m. On an average day, 15 to 25 people walk through the doors. On Fridays, the center sees anywhere from 50 to 60 people. They have the chance to take a hot shower, relax and watch television, use the telephone, use laptops with access to free wi-fi and eat a free home-cooked meal. The center also offers various counseling sessions for those struggling with addiction or mental health problems. They also help connect people to employment and housing. 

In front of the "greenhouse" as Maritn called it, where people grow, is a yellow house that servces as home to six men. Martin referred to it as a "three-quarter house" where men can come in and have a room and a place to stay. They pay their own rent and take care of the house.

Cathy Mitchell has been coming to the A.C.E Recovery Center since it opened, about three years ago. She said it has helped her with her struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues.

Sheronda Shockley is part of the welcoming committee. She sits at the desk as you walk into the facility. She answers the phones, helps connect people to resources and uses the resources herself. 

"I started coming here when I was driving a bus. I could come here and park my bus during the day and have a place to go," said Shockley. 

She is now writing a book about her road to recovery, with hopes that her story could help someone else.

"I'm on my own two feet again," said Shockley. "Still I come over here and I spend time here. I'm writing my own life story, just filling out some notes."

Delaware Health and Social Services says a detox center is coming to lower Delaware in the next year, but have yet to nail down an exact location. 

For now, churches, Teen Challenge, Connections Community Support Programs and other local organizations are aiming to help. 

"We ask people what their biggest struggle is and they say nighttime. Then we ask people what their second biggest struggle is, and they say daytime. So we are doing what we can to help people in the daytime," said Martin. 
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