FAIRMOUNT, Ind. (WISH) – A new volunteer initiative in Fairmount aims to open a nonprofit halfway house to combat what founding members described as a local “drug epidemic.”
The effort, dubbed “Enough Is Enough,” is led by longtime Fairmount resident Shannon Dodson.
“We’re having overdoses left and right,” she told 24-Hour News 8. “Parents are burying their children… Parents are passed out at stop signs while their kids are sitting in the backseats. Friends that we grew up with who were straight A students are overdosed in the jailhouse.”
The picturesque Grant County town of approximately 3,000 – best known as the childhood home of actor James Dean – is also home to widespread substance abuse and addiction, according to Dodson and other residents.
Fairmount officials did not immediately respond to questions about drug use, abuse and deaths within the community. However, records revealed heroin overdoses and deaths doubled between 2015 and 2016.
“We’ve got addicts on heroin, pills, meth, opioids, everything,” said Dodson. “We see syringes at the playground [and] people shooting up at the park.”
Denial and the community’s unwillingness to openly acknowledge the problem have exacerbated drug abuse, according to Enough Is Enough volunteers.
“[Fairmount residents] know that there’s a problem,” said Dodson. “They know that their nephew is out there right now shooting up but they’re just going to turn their head because it’s none of their business.”
Responding to the problem with compassion is key, she added, emphasizing the importance of creating a safe, supportive environment for addicts to seek help without fear of judgment.
“We need to show everyone love,” Dodson explained. “We need to support them, let them know they’re not alone [and that] we believe they can fight this. I don’t care if [they] don’t have insurance or the right referrals or any money. [I just want to say,] ‘Take my hand! Let me help you!'”
The sobriety advocate aims to house at least 25 people in the planned Enough Is Enough facility, and said she envisions a “home” with a yard and large kitchen area where women focusing on rehabilitation and recovery can “learn how to live life again.”
Their first halfway house will likely only serve women due to limited resources, Dodson said, but they plan to expand with a second facility for men in the coming years.
“We’re looking at properties to start building our house,” she said, beaming. “For the first time in years, I finally feel like I have a purpose again.”
Dodson revealed she, too, struggled for years to overcome addiction.
She began losing her sense of self and direction at age 19 to benzodiazepines or “downers,” she recalled, after a close friend died in a car accident. The emotional trauma left her reeling and desperate to numb the pain of loss.
“I didn’t want to die,” said Dodson. “But I didn’t realize how fast pills sucked me in.”
Her mother, Sheila Metzger, recalled how she noticed signs of addiction before Dodson was aware of her own downward spiral.
The once-energetic teenager gradually became listless and was constantly angry, she said. Friends and colleagues sometimes found her passed out in random vehicles.
“Every time I heard a siren, I called my daughter to make sure she was all right,” Metzger sobbed. “Every time a police officer had somebody pulled over, I would go see if it was my daughter.”
One night in 2009, she received a call from her brother relaying the message she had long dreaded; Dodson, then 21, had been arrested on drug charges and was sitting in jail. It happened mere hours after Metzger had finally confronted her daughter about her ongoing struggle with addiction.
“She finally agreed to treatment earlier that same day,” Metzger said. “As a parent, I felt like I didn’t have that talk with her soon enough… but God had a plan.”
Dodson said the arresting officer, Fairmount Police Department’s Richard Dollar, spoke with her for hours and helped spark her “I’ve had enough” moment.
“That was it,” she told 24-Hour News 8. “That night changed everything. I decided that night, enough is enough.”
The volunteers currently working with the Enough Is Enough initiative – including Fairmount mothers Laurissa Ward and Jackie Vest – have all successfully overcome drug addiction and said they take pride in maintaining their sobriety.
The group welcomes all volunteers, regardless of background and familiarity with substance abuse, and invites interested community members to follow their Facebook page.