Troy Manns was born into a family afflicted by alcohol and started his own battle with drinking and drugs by age 13. By 17, he was using cocaine and spiraling down fast.
He tried to get clean as a young man but failed, he said.
“I just thought I had a moral issue,” he said. “I felt like this was something I should be able to kick. That was a struggle in itself, having that feeling of being a man, you should be able to handle this.”
The second time, something clicked for the Eden native when he landed at Freedom House in Chapel Hill. Seventeen years later, he’s collaborating with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Josh’s Hope Foundation and the Orange County Criminal Justice Resource Department to help other addicts build a new life.
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The Foundations of Hope Inmate Peer Recovery Program launched Tuesday at the Orange County Jail in Hillsborough. Manns, a substance disorder counselor and certified peer support specialist who now works at Freedom House, will meet twice a week with a small group of male inmates with substance use disorders.
The goal is to expand the pilot program to more male — and female — inmates in the future, officials said.
The jail’s staff is working with Allison Zirkel, a criminal case assessment specialist, to select inmates for the program, based on their charges, expected release dates, housing restrictions, and anything, such as work release, that could keep them from attending meetings. Inmates must be diagnosed with a substance use disorder, show a demonstrated commitment to recovery and be serving a jail sentence of more than 60 days.
Five inmates chosen for the pilot program will attend problem-solving workshops and learn positive self-advocacy and motivational and mindfulness instruction for at least 60 days. They’ll also be eligible for vocational training and internship opportunities through the Josh’s Hope Foundation Tools for Hope program.
The program offers two certificates, Josh’s Hope co-founder Steve Bailey said. One prepares trainees to work in construction or in home improvement stores; another focuses more on the craftsmanship of furniture design and manufacturing.
Although the foundation typically serves young adults with a mental health condition, he said, substance abuse is not uncommon.
“We’re stepping a little bit outside of (our mission) with this, but so far, all of the referrals we’ve received have both,” he said. “We’re going to find that a large number of guys in prison with addiction health issues also have mental health issues.”
Manns brought the idea for Foundations of Hope to the Sheriff’s Office, Bailey said. It’s the second local program this year aimed at getting drugs off the street and helping addicts get clean.
The Sheriff’s Office also is spearheading COORE — the Coordinated Opioid Overdose Reduction Effort — in partnership with the Criminal Justice Resource Department and other area agencies. Both COORE and Foundations of Hope reflect their commitment to helping people in need, Sheriff Charles Blackwood said.
“By identifying these problems and dealing with them appropriately, we hope to provide these people with the best opportunity to live a life free of mood-altering substances and all the issues brought on by their use,” he said.
The peer recovery model is different, Manns said, because it pairs addicts with someone who has experienced addiction and recovery, instead of someone who is in a position of power and authority.
The inmates will learn more about themselves and how their lives could look if they were well, he said. They will create action plans and learn coping skills to make their lives better. Each day is a measure of success, he said, from being a productive citizen to having the resources to bounce back when they stumble.
“If I know that this right here is making my life bad, what new skills can I incorporate into my life to make things better, because a lot of this is patterns of life,” Manns said. “I’m not there to teach them what (the drug) does to the brain. I’m there to teach them how to live a life of recovery.”