Every year, millions of Americans deal with drug abuse. A faith-based drug outreach program is at work here to help those struggling with addiction.

Hope Ministries "A New Revival" is working to change the stigma associated with these issues.

Travis and Tasha Butcher started the drug outreach program after overcoming their own addiction battles.

“We are trying to change the way the community looks at addicts,” Travis said. “When we were getting clean we had a tough time – we got tired of hearing the derogatory comments like ‘junkie, crackhead, meth head, you can’t do it, you’re never going to get your life back together.’ We finally decided ‘you know what, I think we can.’”

According to Travis, it’s these derogatory terms that make those struggling with addiction seal up and stay to themselves.

“What that does is put shame on the user,” said Travis. “That’s what kills people – it makes them not want to reach out and get help. It’s important to know that it’s okay.”

Hope Ministries focuses on building community awareness through their public events along with playing a vital role in connecting recovering individuals to resources and support. The outreach program partners with other programs and resource centers like Diane Washington Fresh Start, 4th Dimension Recovery, Austin’s Hope and more.

“We’re just trying to get the message out there because it seems like no one wants to talk about it,” Travis said. “Users shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help.”

With over 13 years in the field of addiction, Arica Estell is the executive director of Diane Washington Fresh Start. She said the organization is named after her aunt, who lost her battle with drug addiction.

"My aunt lost her battle with drugs, they changed her," Estell said. "I grew up thinking I was going to be a lawyer but after that moment, I knew I was destined to help people overcome addiction."

Diane Washington Fresh Start works with clients to remove any barriers they may face during the recovery process. The organization offers programs to help those in their recovery and also a youth program to prevent youths from ever walking through their doors.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” It goes on to explain that while a person struggling with drug abuse normally makes a voluntary decision to use drugs at first, over time, the person becomes increasingly unable to stop the drug use.

Pete Hamm recently completed a 41-day treatment program in southern Indiana and is currently on the path to recovery. Hamm met Travis and Tasha through Revolution Church. He said their firsthand story of recovery and redemption – and their willingness to lend a helping hand – has been an inspiration to him.

“I’m new to their program but Travis and Tasha know me and they know my background with substance abuse,” Hamm said. “We all reconnected through church at Revolution. They are so inspirational – the things they are trying to do are wonderful.”

Hamm said that in the midst of his struggles with substance abuse, his body needed drugs to function.

“My life became so dependent on it that my body needed it or I couldn’t function,” Hamm said. “I was what’s called a ‘functional addict.’ That’s scary to me – I was putting myself and others at risk and I really didn’t even know it. It’s scary business.”

Hamm says that Travis and Tasha, along with the Revolution church community, have given him the support network he needs to revive his life. Travis noted that going through the same experience firsthand gives him a unique perspective when mentoring others.

“I think it makes a big difference coming from someone who has had an addiction problem because I’ve been there,” Travis said. “I’m not a college educated counselor but a lot of them haven’t been there. I can relate.”

Hamm is now eight months clean.

One of Travis and Tasha’s goals with the program is to help youth stay away from drugs before ever needing recovery advice or counseling.

“When I was a kid, almost everyone smoked cigarettes – it was the cool thing to do,” Travis said. “The way advertising is now and all the programs put in place, kids hardly ever smoke now – it’s not cool anymore. If there are programs and resources in place to stop that then they can stop anything.”

Tasha said it’s important to bring to light awareness on what the trends are now.

“The trendy thing now is the Juul,” Tasha said. “They can be addictive too – just one puff could take you down.”

Their advice to younger generations? Partying isn’t as cool as you think it is.

“You think you’re in the cool crowd in high school when you’re using and partying but once you get out, you go from cool to a loser-type atmosphere,” Travis said.

In 2017, there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. Travis said that number just scratches the surface of how many people are really affected by drug addiction.

“Those numbers are just the overdose deaths, that doesn’t include the people affected by addiction, noted Travis. “Family members, the crime that goes along with it, the poverty – it affects millions of people.”

Hope Ministries A New Revival is currently working towards their 501(c)3 status and plans to eventually open an outreach center.

They have a community outreach event scheduled for Friday, July 26 at 7 p.m. at Walton Christian Church, 101 W. Bishop St. Travis and Tasha will share their story and discuss what the community can do to fight the battle of addiction.

“We want to be a friendly face that everyone knows they can come to,” Travis said. “We have resources and we will be here for support. It takes a community to fix a community.”

Reach Quentin Blount at quentin.blount@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130.

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