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How much can one heart take? How much sadness, desperation, grieving? Every week, I read in the paper about the opioid epidemic. For years, there has been a call to action – what is law enforcement doing? What are our elected officials doing? What are communities doing to prevent drug abuse? And over these years, so many individuals and families have been living the minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day terror, seeing their loved ones turn into strangers, of waiting for that call, and watching helplessly as people die. How do their friends process this? When a person who struggled and fought against addiction, seems to be breaking free, then … is gone?

Laws are changing limiting over-prescribing. Law enforcement and mental health clinicians are learning that an addict needs so much more than jail time to be rehabilitated. Prevention is a high priority in our schools. Over the past 10 years, there has been increased information about what the drugs and the trauma does inside the brain. First responders are carrying Narcan (naloxone) in order to save lives, but it doesn’t seem to reduce the number of non-fatal overdoses. I see all this in the media, and yet our friends, relatives and neighbors are still living with the same chaos and pain that I am. We don’t know how to fix it. We don’t know how we got caught up in all of this, anyway.

There are a few organizations – not nearly enough – that will treat the people and families with respect and compassion for the long-term that is necessary to change a life. There’s the 7-day detox, the 28-day rehab that insurance will pay for, and the longer programs that families cash in their college funds and retirement to pay for, over and over again. How must it feel to invest every dollar you have into healing your loved one…just to lose in the end? And the millions of hurting parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, and especially the children of addicts.

This will not be healed by rhetoric and crisis treatment alone. If we are to make progress, we need to bring people out of isolation, restore trust, love our neighbors. There are many non-profits working in Loudoun County, and we want to unify them to provide solutions for these harmful problems that have no boundaries. A commentary in the August 3 edition of Community View called for an all-hands-on-deck approach. That includes caring for those who, right now, are in the fight of their life.

One positive program that is working is in Nashville called Thistle Farms. For over 20 years, they have been saving lives. There is now a sister-organization in Loudoun County, struggling to get on it’s feet. We are Safe Haven Recovery & Dandelion Meadow. We are using the model of Thistle Farms to replicate their successful program, but in this county – one of the wealthiest in the country – we don’t have the funding to make it happen. And another family lost their child this week.

If you have not heard of us yet, please look up our website, DandelionMeadow.org. Please consider becoming part of a culture change, to erase the stigma of addiction, mental illness, human trafficking and trauma. We will offer free safe housing and vocational training to women. We have a solid plan but we need your help.

Jean Damon

Executive Officer, Safe Haven Recovery/Dandelion Meadow

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Drug addiction is not a disease!

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