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Fighting the opioid crisis - Mercy House- in the news

Updated: May 15, 2019

By Jasmine Turner | October 17, 2018 at 9:38 PM EDT - Updated October 17 at 10:26 PM

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Daily, gently worn clothes and shoes, and old furniture make their way into the New Life Thrift Store on Turner Road in Chesterfield.

“We have seen the most broken person come in and be changed," said Rosalinda Rivera.

The thrift store and car wash sit in the same spot, both a part of the New Life Center mission to save lives, and help people regain purpose after fighting addictions.

“More recently than ever, we have seen the amount of overdoses surpass anything historically than we have ever seen," said Rivera, the Executive Director of New Life for Youth. “There needs to be a wake up call. We need parents to understand this is real, don’t think your kids using drugs one weekend is something to forget about. This is real. We need to wake up, start talking to each other and communicating.”

Chesterfield Police say opioid overdoses are slightly up in comparison to last year. So far in 2018, there have been 196 opioid overdoses and 27 have been fatal. Breaking that number down further, in the last 90 days, there were 55 overdoses and seven were fatal, five of those deaths happened in a 72 hour period in September.

“That’s five lives gone forever, families effected,” she said. “It’s an eye opener, and my heart is passionate to let people know we have a problem but we have a solution.”

Rivera has spent her life passionate about recovery. Her father Victor Torres, overcame heroin addiction and dedicated his life to helping others do the same. Torres and his wife started New Life for Youth, also known as the New Life Center in 1971. In that time, they have continued to grow, offering 130 beds in recovery homes to men, women and young people struggling.

“We embrace them as family,” Rivera said. “This is a year long program, don’t want you just in for 90 days, 30 days to clean you up and get you out - we want an opportunity to influence your way of thinking, your lifestyle.”

They offer mentoring, a home for men and women, as well as parenting programs geared towards reuniting families.

“It was a long journey,” said Jimmy McMullen. “I had lost everything I had a beautiful family, house, wonderful yard, the dog - everything. But because of drugs and alcohol, it took me over and I lost it."

After coming to New Life practically homeless, McMullen completed the one year program, was able to get a job at the Turner Road Car Wash, and now leads a team of men of all ages working and gaining skills they will need to continue their recovery.

“I never imagined I would be in this position when I first got here,” he said. “A lot of times [the guys] come back, give you a handshake and a hug and say thank you.”

McMullen has been on a new life path for almost two years, grateful to be paying forward what he was shown.

“[Today] I am definitely a guy with purpose. I’ve had the opportunity to come up, lose everything and come up out of the fire,” he said.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, you can find a comprehensive list of resources in Virginia here.

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