State of Addiction: Opioid Abuse in Homeless Shelters

Jul 28, 2017  |     |   General

This article is taken from KETV Omaha.  To read the official article on its original site and watch the accompanying video, click here.

   Heroin and prescription drug abuse are complicating the challenges facing Omaha’s homeless shelters.
     Heroin and prescription drug abuse are compounding the challenges facing Omaha’s homeless shelters.
     A wave of younger people with a growing dependency on drugs is rolling in without a place to live. It’s another example of the problems created by America’s State of Addiction.
     “I’ve been flat-lined in the hospital three times,” said Russell Janssen, a former heroin addict.
      Now a case manager at the Open Door Mission, Janssen knows all about the power of addiction.
     “You lose everything, but you don’t care. That’s the problem with it. You don’t care what you lose because it becomes about the drug. It becomes about the love affair,” said Janssen.
Janssen has been sober for 20 years. His addiction started with marijuana and led to heroin.
     “The problem with heroin is, eventually, you get to a point where you have to do so much heroin just to feel normal. And then if you want to get high, you have to go above that amount,” said Janssen.
     He said the biggest change on the drug scene is younger men and women in the shelter, each walking the same path toward destruction.
     “Now, we see a lot more younger people coming to the program. I’m talking about 19, 20, 21, 25. It’s getting worse,” said Frank Bailey, program director for Siena/Francis House.
Bailey sees it too at the Siena/Francis House, the increased number of homeless adults addicted to opiates.
     “It just takes them over. And then in the process, they start losing things like house, employment, family,” said Bailey.
     Omaha’s homeless shelters have always dealt with drug abuse. But the challenge of how to treat those who are addicted, and still help those who are not, is as great a task as ever.
     “Our idea of sobriety is 24/7, 365,” Steve Frazee, senior program director for Open Door Mission.
     Frazee said those who arrive high are kept away from the others.
     Additionally, prescribed medications are kept by staff members, under lock and key.
     The shelter is currently looking for better drug tests to use in screening, according to Frazee.
     “We sometimes get so that we have an issue of being able to detect what is something that they’ve been prescribed, and something that isn’t,” said Frazee.
      The Siena/Francis House offers more leniency. 
     Shelter is provided, and counseling is offered if clients will commit to the 120-day residential program.
     “Every person with an addiction is not a bad person. They kind of bond together,” said Bailey.
     “I had a motorcycle accident.” said Richard Moreno, another former addict.
     Moreno is among those benefiting from the Siena/Francis House’s Miracles program .
He bears the scars of a heroin addiction that started decades ago when he was a teenager with prescribed painkillers.
     His wife died last year while he was in jail for drugs. 
     Moreno said the counseling is his lifeline.
     “I got a 12-year-old and my wife passed away in October of 2016 and I needed to fix myself,” said Moreno.
     The biggest obstacle on the road to recovery — a change of scenery.
     “You have to get them out of the environment that they’re in because if you don’t get them out of the environment they’re in, they will constantly stay there and they’ll continue to go back to what they know,” said Janssen.
     For more information on the Siena/Francis House and its services, visit sienafrancis.org.
     For more information on the Open Door Mission and its services, visit opendoormission.org.