In every level of society, addiction has become common with the number of opioid-related deaths rising. In Lorain County, most individuals are no strangers to this crisis and know others who are losing or have lost a loved one to the fight with opiates. Drug and alcohol abuse are often stigmatized, which leads individuals to hide, become isolated and to not seek treatment. On the main campus of LCCC, there is a program that advocates sobriety and provides support and resources students may need to fight addiction. The C.A.R.E. Program, Caring Advocates for Recovery Education, partnered with LCADA Way, Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Addiction, to bring free, private help to students and community members struggling with addiction.
The C.A.R.E. Center, BU 113D, is decorated with simple displays that tell a story. Currently, there are shoes that line the perimeter of the floor within the center. The shoes, all colors, sizes and styles, had a laminated slip of paper inside with a title. These titles include; ‘mother’, ‘co-worker’ and/or ‘brother’.
“The shoes represent those we have lost to addiction,” said Charlene Dellipoala, the C.A.R.E. program project coordinator, “It can truly be anybody.” Dellipoala earned her master’s degree in social work, with a specialization in addiction recovery through Youngstown State University.
Currently, the C.A.R.E. center hosts six meetings a week. The center hosts men’s-only Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and plans to begin a women’s group within weeks.
Statistics reveal that every day more than 115 people die from a prescription opioid-related overdose. Dellipoala blames this on the casual access to prescriptions. “It [addiction] can begin very innocent,” she said, “Someone may just go in for an oral surgery and receive a prescription and become addicted.” She understands this issue from the perspective of the individuals that she has helped.
“It used to be so easy to go to the doctor and tell them something hurts and they would write out a large script, 60 or 90 pills,” said Dellipoala, “When the doctors realized [this overuse], and the patient was cut off that’s when street drugs come into the mix.”
She understands that individuals fighting addiction are looking for a way out. “Seek as many support systems as you can. The more support you have, the better the chance you have of getting clean,” said Dellipoala. “Behavior modification is the big issue; you have to change your environment.”
She offers words of encouragement to those who may have a friend or loved one struggling with addiction. “Support them, try to understand what they’re going through,” she said, “It’s the addiction, not the person that’s making them do things that are out of character.”
Building a community of support to advocate for those fighting addiction takes the contribution of many. One individual, who wishes to remain anonymous and uses the C.A.R.E. center as a resource, knows that the program is effective. “In between classes you can talk to somebody or come to a meeting,” he said, “which is why they’re hosted every day at noon. People really do come.”
The C.A.R.E. center program has Monday through Friday meetings and stays open until 8 p.m. to be accommodating. Speaking of Dellipoala, Mary Kay Bonnette, a student worker in the C.A.R.E. center, said, “She’s an excellent resource, she provides so much knowledge and she’s been such a great mentor to me. She cares about people’s lives outside of these four walls and she’s a true angel.”
The C.A.R.E. program, now in its third year, shows no sign of slowing down. The number of individuals using the resource has “tripled” in this year alone.