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'If we can save one life then it's worth it': Local groups help veterans fight addiction

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Posted at 11:22 PM, May 29, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — May is Military Appreciation Month, but two local groups work year-round to help veterans facing substance use disorders and shed light on resources available to combat the crisis.

Overdose Lifeline is one of those organizations helping with that fight.

Every month they pack about 24,000 Narcan kits to distribute.

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Local organizations help vets fight addiction

“It’s more important than ever for people to understand access to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone is critical to saving someone’s life,” explained Justin Phillips, who founded the organization after the overdose death of her youngest son, Aaron.

Thousands of those life-saving Narcan kits will go to Renegade Recovery, a non-profit that hits the streets of Indianapolis to hand them out.

"Some of these folks are in homeless camps, the camps are really distant from the city streets and by the time 911 would get there, someone would be dead,” said founder Maston “Rebel” Willis.

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Local organizations help vets fight addiction

Willis is a veteran who started the organization after overcoming his own battle.

"Anytime you go into the United States Armed Forces, you do not come home the same,” he said. "I was heavily alcoholic, and drug addicted. I didn't think it would lead me to the places it did. It led me to homelessness"

Willis said far too often vets don’t know where to return when they come back from serving our country.

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Local organizations help vets fight addiction

Many veterans face a range of physical and mental health issues, including chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, which can ultimately contribute to the development of addiction.

"One in every ten veterans suffer from substance use disorder and we know they're a part of the population we need to seek out,” said Phillips.

Both organizations are now working together to meet the need right where it is.

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Local organizations help vets fight addiction

Their goal is to restore that connection by shedding light on basic resources, like the VA, the Salvation Army, and Wheeler Mission so that vets can then get help fighting their substance use disorder.

“If they can just get connected and get housing and get that kind of help that would put them on the map," said Willis. "Our goal is to reach whoever we can. If we can save one life then it's worth it."

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Local organizations help vets fight addiction