Heroin addiction: How transitional homes offer 'stepping stone'

By Erin Murray, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, June 19, 2017, 5:23 PM EDT

Ending the heroin epidemic is a war with many different battles. One of those battles all recovering addicts fight is staying clean after rehab.

  • A Stepping Stone to Success provides transitional housing for heroin addiction recovery
  • Group says transitional housing helps those out of rehab stay clean
  • Group believes Florida needs to invest in similar facilities

“I found this place out of sheer luck," said Jessica DeNichilo. “I had burned so many bridges with family and friends; I honestly don’t know where I would be without this house.”

DeNichilo currently lives in one of two a transitional homes called A Stepping Stone to Success. DeNichilo lives in one for just women. Clint Loudermilk lives in the one for just men.

“I had no more options. I was literally almost homeless. And you know, I have a college degree, I owned houses, I have lost it all," said Loudermilk.

DeNichilo and Loudermilk are recovering heroin addicts.

“Bottom line, it became an economical thing. I couldn’t afford prescription pills so I would use street drugs," said Loudermilk.

After rehab, many addiction professionals believe transitional homes can play a huge role with people working to stay clean.

“Where ever they came from was probably the last place they were using at. And out brains have great memories. And they remember it being pleasurable," said Jo-Anne Stone, Certified Addiction Professional.

Stone is a former addict herself and started the two transitional homes. She firmly believes the state of Florida should invest more into similar facilities now that a state of emergency on heroin has been declared. 

“If I didn’t have this house, to be able to do that, I would have gotten out of treatment, had nowhere else to go, and would have been back on the streets. Chances are I would have relapsed," said DeNichilo.

DeNichilo is clean and working to get her kids back. Loudermilk has run both homes as a manager for the last three years.

If you or someone you know needs transitional housing post-addiction, you can find information on the Stepping Stone to Success website. 

Florida's Heroin Epidemic

In May, Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency in Florida to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic.

Heroin overdoses and heroin deaths have grown in the last few years. In 2015 alone, opioids were responsible for nearly 3,900 deaths in Florida.

In May, Sheriff Jerry Demings told a task force his deputies responded to 160 heroin overdoses in the first three months of 2017, compared to 69 heroin overdoses over the same period in 2016.

The county also saw 17 deaths in the first three months of 2017, compared to eight in 2016.

Gov. Scott's declaration freed up over $27 million for two years to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support services.

The N.O.W. Matters More Foundation works to help those trying to break addiction, including financial help. They also work raise prevention and education efforts as well. More information can be found on the N.O.W. Matters More Foundation website.