Recovering addicts tackle opioid epidemic in local emergency rooms

Charles Deloatch

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Crack cocaine was Charles Deloatch’s drug of choice before hitting rock bottom 26 years ago.

The Virginia Beach native says drug use started as fun and turned into a job, before thoughts of suicide finally pushed him into treatment.

“The hopelessness is so overwhelming,” Deloatch said. “I turned into someone I didn’t recognize and my family didn’t recognize.”

Deloatch, 61, says drugs on the street have changed, including a dramatic spike in heroin, but “the desperation hasn’t changed and the pain hasn’t changed.”

He’s now taking his wisdom to the role of peer-recovery coach to show addicts there’s hope, help and people who care.

“I haven’t forgotten what it was like and where I had to come from,” said Deloatch. “It’s been 26 years, but sometimes when I look at my children I can still see the hurt. That’s why I do this.”

The program, which is set to launch by December, dispatches peer-recovery coaches to emergency rooms to link patients with treatment and counseling services.

The $267,000 program is funded through the Federal funding from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The cost covers peer-recovery programs in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Portsmouth.

“If they leave, with nothing having changed in the middle, they are right back in the same situation,” said Hicks, behavioral health director.

In 2016, statistics show more than 300 people overdosed on opioids and 72 people died in the Resort City, according to statistics.

Opioids killed 1,138 people statewide, which is an increase of 40 percent from 2015.

Governor-Elect Ralph Northam says the epidemic is one of Virginia’s biggest challenges.

“As a physician, I will bring people to the table and make sure we do everything we can to offer these individuals help that have this addiction issue and also to prevent it from happening, which I think is very important,” said Northam, one day after getting elected.

Hicks says she’s encouraged by Northam’s words and underscores the importance of funding to provide additional resources that can save lives.

“When this funding started this year, we were not sure if would continue a second year,” she said. “Now, we’re feeling confident it will.”

Earlier this year, Virginia Beach also received nearly $1 million from SAMHSA to implement new treatment programs, including funds for housing, childcare and transportation to make sure addicts can more easily make their appointments.

In Virginia Beach, those who need immediate help can call (757) 385-0888.