My name is Matt Bell. I'm 29 years old and from Toledo OH. I never thought that I’d become a drug addict, either. I never knew anything about drugs, heck, I didn't even want to smoke cigarettes growing up! I had a great upbringing, in a good home, with an amazing loving family. I went to private schools from kindergarten through my senior year of high school. Then, I went to college at a Division 1 university on a full athletic scholarship for baseball. I even ended up graduating high school with a 4.0 GPA. So, what happened?
I tore my rotator cuff as a sophomore in college and was given 90 Percocet. Roughly one week later I was physically dependent. To sum things up, pills became expensive, I dropped out of college, and one day I couldn't get any pills because of the price and lack of availability. Then, someone offered me heroin because it was cheaper and stronger; after that day I shot heroin for 9 years. I was a shell of who I used to be, a shell of who I wanted to be, and who I always imagined I’d be when I was growing up. I lost everything and everyone in my life. I was arrested 13 times in 4 different states, and I'm now a convicted felon. I've overdosed and died while I was then kept alive for 5 days by machines in an ICU. How could this ever happen to me?
In the city that I live in (Toledo OH), we have 16 federally funded detox beds for an estimated 10,000 opiate addicts. I was lucky and was able to get into one of those detox beds through the DART program, which was a program developed by Sheriff Tharp and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. That was almost 8 months ago, and life in those 8 months has changed dramatically.
In detox, myself along with 3 other friends who are also still sober today, started Team Recovery, an advocacy group for addicts trying to do some things differently and make some changes; specifically, to make recovery attractive and fun. We try to change the stigma attached to addiction and make people realize that addicts are not all bad. We also go and speak at schools—6th grade through college—all over Ohio, and eventually all over the country regarding drugs and alcohol. Our aim is to support the family members who also need healing and support.
Today, I'm employable, I pay taxes, I help others, I obey the law, I have a steady and good job, I'm happy, I'm involved with my family and friends, and I have people in my life who genuinely care for me. I speak daily with police, judges, coroners, doctors, treatment providers, police & fire chiefs, all in an effort to collaborate in this fight against opiates.
Recovery is possible, and its beautiful, but Id like to highlight a few issues that myself and Team Recovery believe need to be addressed (from our personal point of view):
- There needs to be more funding for detox beds. Federally funded detox beds should not be limited to 16 per facility.
- Facilities that have more than 16 detox beds should be able to take Medicaid.
- Prevention, education, and awareness are the keys! The feedback we get from our school presentations is something innovative, because the kids can relate to us being young and we get them involved.
- More monitoring of prescribing and over-prescribing.
- Suboxone and Methadone (opioids) are not the solution to an opiate epidemic.
- Vivitrol is a key resource than can and should be utilized more to combat this epidemic.
- Recovery is possible. Not all drug addicts are bad people. We need detox and treatment, not jail and more opioids replacement programs.
This epidemic is killing people everyday, and a lot of those people have been my friends. 6 people dying per day is not okay, and the solutions that will actually work need to come from the people who know what works; that is the people who’ve survived this and have tried everything. Dollars and cents shouldn’t influence what routes we take to combat this, this shouldn't be an opportunity for people and companies to capitalize off of.
Please take what was said here into consideration. Millions of lives, including sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, husbands, and wives are at stake!
-Matt, Team Recovery
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