South St. Louis has a new outreach center for people affected by addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers.
The Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery plans to offer legal help, treatment referrals and education classes out of its Dutchtown office at 4022 South Broadway.
Chad Sabora and Robert Riley founded the nonprofit in 2013. Up until now the two men met with addicts and family members in coffee shops and living rooms.
“We take the stance that this is a public health crisis, not a criminal crisis, so we’re here to treat the individuals by giving them assistance into detox and treatment and certain services. And we’re also here to help the family and the community,” Sabora said during the center’s grand opening on Friday afternoon.
In some ways the Missouri Network is a lot like St. Louis’ well-established branch of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA). Both offer drug treatment referrals. Both advocate for policy reform. But the Missouri Network is young, small and a bit of a maverick.
Last year, Sabora told NBC News that he has given addicts and family members the overdose antidote Narcan in defiance of Missouri law, which limits Narcan access to medical providers and first responders.
Because of that practice, NCADA’s Dan Duncan said his organization has had to distance itself from Sabora.
On Friday, however, Sabora indicated that he plans to move Narcan distribution to Illinois, where the public is allowed access to the antidote.
“We won’t decimate any materials such as needles or Narcan at this location, but we will be holding classes twice a week to teach people how to survive addiction,” said Sabora.
Both Sabora and Riley are former addicts who now work at area treatment centers. Sabora works for the Gateway Foundation, which primarily operates in Illinois. Riley is a licensed substance abuse counselor with Preferred Family Healthcare.
Through their nonprofit, the two men help families choose between different treatment providers and options.
“I have a lot of families that have come to me and been like ‘I didn’t know where to go, I looked in the phone book. I sent my kid somewhere (and) it was a horrible experience,’” Sabora said. “We know these places so we’re going to be able to help families make those correct decisions.”
In addition to offering treatment recommendations and support groups, the outreach center is offering legal assistance at reduced cost through a partnership with criminal defense attorney Karie Pennington.
“I meet (clients) in the middle,” Pennington said. “It’s become a huge part of my practice.”
“The goal is really to get people into treatment and not prison,” Pennington added, saying that she works to get clients into drug court and show prosecutors that they are getting help.
For loved ones trying to figure out how to help their son, daughter, husband or wife, Mary Maybery-Daniels keeps her cell phone handy and an open ear at the ready.
“I’ve lived through the sickness, through the enabling, through wondering where they are at night or if we’re going to see them again,” said Maybery-Daniels, whose husband died of a heroin overdose in February 2012. “I’ve lived it so I know the red flags of what to do and what not to do.”
Maybery-Daniels is not a counselor, but she listens to parents, husbands and wives and refers them to support groups and counseling services.
Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery is funded through private donations. It is not a state-certified service provider.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.