LEWISTON, ID (KLEW) -- Addiction, substance abuse and suicide are all connected in the tangled web stemming from mental health problems that go untreated.
These types of tragedies are all too common in the Lewis-Clark Valley area.
"The chemicals in your brain are telling you you're going to die if you don't take this substance,” says Tammy Watson, director of Lewiston recovery center First Step 4 Life.
In Nez Perce County, 21 people died of drug overdoses between 2017 and 2018. Watson says they had close to 6,400 visits to the center in 2018.
"Heroin, Opiates, Methamphetamines,” Watson said listing some of the substances she sees most often. “Addiction is a disease."
But it's often not the only disease afflicting those people.
"You have a mental health disorder and you try and self-medicate with substances or it's vice versa, because you use substances, now you have a mental health disorder," Watson says.
First Step 4 Life's goal is to provide a place for people to go if they don't know where to turn and help them find the best path to long-term recovery for both addiction and mental illness.
"When you're in active use, you're constantly scheming and scamming and trying to figure out how you're going to get your next fix,” says Watson. “So instead of going to your dealer's house, you come to the recovery center."
They learn new behaviors, play games and spend time with others who know their struggle.
The crisis center will be a different type of safe haven.
"There is no look of what that person looks like when they're in crisis,” says Joyce Lyons, Crisis Center Coordinator for the contract held by Public Health. “They aren't able to gather their resources around them and function in society. That's what a crisis is."
The center will be a safe place where those experiencing this type of trauma can stay for a short period of time. However, they have to be the ones to admit they have a problem and check in voluntarily.
"And that's where they're most at risk also, because that teacher who is all of a sudden suicidal or depressed, can't say anything because their career, their job, their family is all on the line because of stigma,” says Lyons.
Dispelling the stigma around mental health is another step in the recovery
"Acknowledging that that is real to them is huge,” Watson says.
Especially considering Idaho’s high suicide rates.
"There's poverty in Idaho, I think there's joblessness in Idaho, I think there's a man-up attitude in Idaho,” Lyons said, listing some of her theories for the trend.
People who check into the crisis center can check out once they feel they can function again in everyday life. The also have the option to enter the recovery center.
Many of the center's volunteers are people who have been through the recovery process themselves.
"We have a place to gather...a community type deal...where we discuss our problems and what we're fighting,” says volunteer Craig Daugherty.
"You see them the first time they come in and it's like a ghost of a person...and you see them six months later and they're just...thriving,” says Watson of the impact the center can have.
The crisis center is opening in April. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or mental health, First Step 4 Life wants to help with the path to recovery,
For more information, you can call them at 208-717-3881 or visit their website.