Although there are a few more details to iron out before it gets up and running, a program aimed at helping opioid-addicted persons — specifically those having been convicted of violent offenses — to get off drugs and their lives turned around is all but ready to begin.

The program is known as Fresh Start and is intended to help those addicts who can’t be a part

of the Day Report/Drug Court program due to having been convicted of a violent offense, such as domestic battery.

Jessie Spaulding, who is a recovering opioid addict himself and who now works for the Southwestern Regional Day Report Center, attended last week’s Mingo County Board of Health meeting to talk about the program’s progression and current status.

Spaulding said the program, once in force, will be available in four counties — Mingo, Logan, Lincoln and Boone — with himself having oversight of the program in Mingo County.

“It is a 12-month program that’s connected with the opioid epidemic, so in order to get into this program there has to be some connection with the use of opioids,” he said. “Like Day Report, it provides people an alternative to jail and a chance to turn their lives around.

 “I basically just got this information very recently, so right now I’m new at this also. I’ve got to get a meeting set up with the judge, the prosecutor, probation, the bar association, the county commission, the Day Report system and the health department to get all the information I need to get the program started.”

Spaulding described Fresh Start as a diversionary program for persons on probation who can successfully complete the 800 hours of strict regimen the program requires, such attending and completing classes, undergoing and successfully passing drug screenings (four times a week), and a health and wellness visit with the health department.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of this, that they saw my recovery take hold of me,” he said. “I’m 526 days, 100 percent clean of my opioid addiction … I want to change the compass of this county and I want to be a driving force and give everybody the chance to change their life.”

Spaulding said another vital part of the program is participants work while in recovery. He said Lincoln, Boone and Logan will have gardening projects and that Mingo will have a craftsmanship component in support of these.

He said a current major hitch with the Mingo County project is the lack of a facility in which to perform the work.

“I’m trying to look for a place, but I’ve already been approved for all the tools we’ll need … basically just waiting to get a place to do it,” he said.

Spaulding said another problem that has to be solved is transportation for the participants, particularly if a facility is found outside of Williamson and it becomes necessary for them to travel every day to and from that facility.

“We have one van, which is in Community Service, and we would be tied in with that, but there may be days when we have to go somewhere else and the van won’t be available to us,” he said. “There are some problems, but I feel nothing that can’t be overcome. This program is designed to save lives … and I’m very excited to be a part of it.”

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