As the heroin epidemic continues to ravage the nation, it’s Ohio that’s faring the worst. According to data from 2015, Ohio has surpassed every other state in the number of heroin overdoses, reaching 1,155 that year. In the last two years it’s gotten worse, said Leigh Gadek, who co-founded and runs Marin’s Hope, a sober housing program in Columbus. As more people are looking to recover, Gadek’s organization directs people to treatment and counseling, and provides homes for men and women suffering from addiction.
“The opiate epidemic wasn’t like it is now,” said Gadek, who serves as executive director and therapist at Marin’s hope. “In fact, it kind of seems normal to say you’re a heroin addict now, and when I got clean it was like, shameful, and I didn’t even like telling anyone that.
“The need and the amount of calls — my phone is constant, non-stop,” she added. “I can’t even keep up.”
Gadek started the organization with Heidi Riggs, mother of Marin Riggs, whom the organization is named for. In recovery, people become friends with others of any age and kind. Gadek, although older than Marin, was close with her. Marin overdosed and died at the age of 20 in 2012, and Gadek teamed up with Heidi Riggs to develop a non-profit for addicts seeking help, housing and support.
It was an idea that came out of Gadek’s own need. When she looked into treatment and rehabilitation programs, she found a severe lack of sober housing for women. Taking it into their own hands, Gadek and Riggs opened Marin’s Place as well as Shannon’s Place, a men’s sober home named for Shannon Vanmeeter, who, at age 35, also overdosed and died in 2012. They’ve opened two other locations since then, serving 21 men and 15 women. All reside on the north side of Columbus.
As a partner with Lucky’s Market through their Bags for Change program, Marin’s Hope has raised more awareness and increased their presence in Columbus. As people learn about the organization, many have reached out for help for their own family members. It’s helped to move forward part of Marin’s Hope’s mission, which is to erase the stigma surrounding addiction.
“It’s getting better, but it’s nowhere near where it should be,” Gadek said. “People are arguing it’s not a disease. It’s still that thing of ’It’s a choice, it’s a lifestyle, people have chosen this, so I guess they chose to overdose and die.’”
When people can talk about addiction without the fear of being ostracized, it allows for faster and easier healing, for the client and the family, Gadek said. And, as for Gadek herself, helping people through their addiction has helped her stay clean. She sees the impact on the community as a ripple effect, starting with her and pushing out into the community.
“The more people that we can get on board with recovery and get clean, the better everything gets within the city, to include crime and to include families and broken homes, and the list goes on,” she said. “It’s an impact that just trickles through the community.”
For more information, or to donate, visit marinshope.org.
Focus on Philanthropy is a feature series sponsored by Lucky’s Market that highlights Central Ohio nonprofit organizations involved in their Bags for Change program. Encouraging the use of reusable bags, the program grants a $.10 credit per bag or the option to donate it to a local nonprofit. Lucky’s will also match the donation. For more information, follow them on Twitter at @luckysmarket and like Lucky’s Market on Facebook.