September is National Recovery Month.
A local nonprofit is hoping to raise awareness of the challenges local recovery centers are battling right now due to the pandemic, which has exacerbated an already difficult situation.
This is a time when addiction and relapse rates are rising due to COVID-19 but Nexus Recovery Center said they're not letting that stop their life-saving work.
The center was founded in Dallas in 1971 by five sober women who saw a need for a center that served only women.
Valerie Howell, a former client, can best tell you how the center changed her life.
She was a single mom with a 4-year old son in 1992. She was addicted to drugs. She did, however, have a job and was able to contact a therapist who referred her to Nexus recovery Center.
"I became so afraid of not having a place to go to get help. And where would he go if I went to get help? I had no support from family," Howell said. "There was no food at home. We barely made it. And I didn’t have any resources.
On Labor Day weekend 28 years ago, she came to Nexus because it's the only center in North Texas that allows children to accompany their mothers to treatment.
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"During our stay at Nexus, our lives just started to evolve. It started to change. I was enrolled in parenting classes, I took alcohol and drug education, and Keaton was involved in Head Start," Howell said. "It was a lot of things that I just wasn’t capable of doing."
She lived at the center for one year and said the programs helped her maintain a path of sobriety ever since. Her son grew up to be successful.
"It changed the course of both of our lives because the cycle of addiction was always in my family. Nexus recovery stopped the cycle of addiction when it came to Keaton and I," she said. "He remembers his time at Nexus but he has no memory of the life that we lead before."
Now, she's on the board overseeing the care of other women in her shoes.
"When you change one life, you change the family dynamics. A lot of my family members are in recovery now because of the traction of what they saw," she said.
But her role has taken on new importance as she witnesses the pandemic of 2020 taking a toll on the recovery community.
Face-to-face therapies and in-person 12-step meetings were stripped away overnight.
"Recovery involves being with others that are like you. And with COVID-19, we’re having to stay at home and we’re not able to socialize, so it has caused so many people a lot of depression and a lot of anxiety. Using has gone up. And they feel like they have no place to go," she explained.
The center reports that the relapse rate in Texas is high, especially in isolation. They expect this trend to continue to increase after COVID-19.
According to the University of North Texas Health Science Center, the number of opioid-related deaths in Texas in the first six months of 2020 is 20% higher than the year before.
The amount of people streaming into Nexus also continues to grow. In the last six months, the facility has taken in more than 860 clients and is now at capacity with a three-week waitlist. About 25% of those clients reported being homeless.
Howell said many of these women don’t have anywhere else to go -- hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients and many have been isolated from other family or friends.
"It is a high number, but we'd like to see it higher," said Howell. "Times are really hard with COVID-19. We're hoping to keep the doors open to make it possible for more women to come in."
This is just a snapshot of how centers like Nexus are continuing programs for clients right now, with masks and virtual meetings.
Nexus offers both residential and outpatient services and currently has more than 100 women and children who live on-campus. The nonprofit said it has established a controlled environment with no visitors and strict protocols. Staff and clients are regularly checked and screened for temperatures, while children continue to be cared for.
So far, no cases have been reported inside the facility, according to Nexus Recovery Center.
Families who enroll in Nexus stay anywhere from a few weeks to several months or more depending on their need, so beds are continuing to open up to take on new clients.
Nexus has planned some celebrations inside the complex for clients for National Recovery Month such as costume contests, arts and crafts, and a picnic. The center has also set up an Amazon wish list for families as the kids head back to school.
If you would like to help through volunteer work or donation, click here.
If you or someone you know needs help from Nexus, call 214-321-0156 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is also some more news in the fight against substance abuse. Last week, John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth officials announced they were one of 10 hospitals in the country to receive a competitive grant from Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration worth $1.5 million.