New Erie County detox center gives those with addiction a place to heal other than the jail

Erie County officials are stepping up their fight against the drug epidemic. A detox center will be open to patients in just a few weeks. The two million dollar facility is the first of its kind in the county. 

Trey Hardy, chief of behavioral health at Erie County Health Department, says some people are traveling to Lorain, Cleveland or Toledo to detox. The distance puts a strain on an already complicated situation. 

“Most of these people don’t have anything. They don’t have cars. They don’t have two nickels to rub together so the logistics of getting to a Lorain or a Cleveland or a Toledo is in itself, insurmountable to most people,” said Hardy. 

Others, like Lori Lunsford, detox in jail. She struggled with drug addiction for more than a decade after she was prescribed Oxycontin because of injuries from a car accident. She eventually started using heroin. 

“It takes everything from you,” said Lunsford. “When you’re living like that, you come to a point where it’s like nothing matters. Nothing is serious.” 

Lunsford says she started stealing from stores to pay her drug dealer. She was caught in January 2016. She says detoxing in jail was physically and mentally difficult. 

“You feel like you’re all alone. Especially when you’ve done so much to your family that they won’t even accept a collect call.” 

Hardy says the detox center, which is connected to the Erie County Health Department, will provide a more humane option. 

“If the only reason or the main reason they’re in jail is because they want to detox them and don’t want them back on the street, they’ll come here instead.” 

The facility can house sixteen patients at a time. Most will stay for five to ten days at a time. Each person will have their own room.

“You don’t want it to feel like a prison cell. You don’t want them to feel like they’re in a cave. Getting the substances out is one small part, but retraining the mind is biggest piece.”

Lunsford is approaching nearly two years sober with the help of rehab and support. She now has her own place and recently got her license. She believes the center will help others facing similar struggles. 

“I feel like places like this give people hope. And if you have just a mustard seed of hope, it can take you pretty far.” 

The center will open to patients in mid-December. There is an open house Friday, Nov. 17, from 3-6 p.m. 

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