How can grassroots advocacy change the stigma of drug addiction? This story is a good example

Chandlor Lamb of Plymouth, Ind., passed away from a drug overdose on Dec. 14, 2016, at the age of 20-years-old.

Before he died, his mom, Angie Kain, had been trying to find a place for him to stay near home where he could cope with his addiction and get the help he needed, instead of the punishment and isolation society all too often shows addicted people. Angie Kain

Sadly, Angie’s search came up empty-handed at the time because such a facility did not yet exist in her hometown Marshall County—even though Indiana as a whole has been one of the states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, and the opioid epidemic has been called the worst drug crisis in American history.

In small towns like Plymouth and Marshall County, the issue is particularly poignant. Local news organizations have reported that nearly everyone in the county is “within arms-length” of someone who has struggled with drug addiction.

So about a year after Chandlor’s death, Plymouth’s first transition home opened to serve people suffering from the disease of addiction and their families.

The facility is run by a faith-based organization called David’s Courage, named after the Bible story in which the boy, David, confronts and ultimately defeats the giant, Goliath, with only a slingshot.

By providing families and people suffering from addiction with treatment programs and services, David’s Courage intends to help them confront their giant’s against all odds, too, it’s Facebook page says. And while it’s impact may be small against the collective crisis, its mere presence is a sign of positive momentum for Angie, who is personally driving the conversation on the severity of addiction in her small town.

“If my son could have had David’s Courage as an option for sentencing or house arrest, then he might have received the help he needed,” she says.

Angie is a connector in the Plymouth community. Nearly everyone who has met her has become her friend, and while news articles and awards are often dedicated to people launching organizations and initiatives, perhaps not enough credit is given to the connectors like her who allow important organizations to rise.

When Angie first heard about David’s Courage at Plymouth 4-H event, she approached much of her town with the news that a facility for those who suffer from addictions of all types was being formed. She wanted David’s Courage to open as soon as possible so other moms would not have to suffer through the loss of a child as she had.

But in doing so, she quickly came up against the stigma of drug addiction in her community, too, discovering that some residents weren’t comfortable with the concept of a drug rehabilitation facility in their city.

“At times, I took things personally when people were against it being added to our community,” she says. “I took it as they were saying no directly to me or my dead child.”

But Angie also learned from the experience that people needed to be educated on drug addiction. She found that many residents were not opposed to the program, in principle, but didn’t want the facility near their homes. It was a good plan, but not here, not now, was the general sentiment, she says.

Even so, she knew that these were unrealistic fears the community needed to overcome in order to deal with the reality of the drug crisis. While she committed herself to hearing out her opposition and working to understand their fears, she still felt strongly that the greater good was to move forward with David’s Courage, and thanks to public advocacy like hers, the project came to fruition.

Opened on February 11, David’s Courage occupies what was formerly the Shady Rest Home nursing facility just east of Plymouth. The Bowen Center had recently been occupying the space, too, but no longer had need for it.

As such, the building has been remodeled to accommodate rooms for both men and women. At full capacity, it can house more than 40 people, leadership says.

Now David’s Courage programming is starting to be implemented, too. The organization offers small group meetings for families needing help with addictions, and its counseling staff is currently being formed.

Overall, Angie is simply grateful that she was able to put a face to the project—and the need for a greater response to drug addiction in Marshall County.

After all, it takes people of all types to initiate change and education in their communities, and while she has not been involved in creating any programming or serving on any boards, her impact is felt—and her son’s tragic experience will, in some way, be fuel for the greater good.

Angie says people still ask her about treating and dealing with addiction problems. Over the years, she’s learned there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and everyone’s experience is different. But the opioid crisis and other drug addictions are serious public health and community issues that ultimately impact us all. And if communities are able to offer more support, education, and facilities to help families cope with the challenge, they might be able to defeat this giant together.

“I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t claim to know everything, but what I do know is that people need to know they have value and are cared about,” Angie says. “One small act of kindness makes a big impact.”

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