A nonprofit has formed in Lake County to expand drug treatment for people in Northwest Indiana.
Keys to Freedom Inc. started in April and has since been providing transportation to substance abuse rehab, including 10 individuals last month alone.
The group hopes to offer more access to treatment in the future, with the ultimate goal of building a sober-living house in Lake County.
"You can do a lot for people with insurance," said Austin Wynn, a founder of the nonprofit and the Griffith-based treatment-referral company Never Alone Recovery. "For those without it, we struggle."
One of his employees at Never Alone Recovery was giving a public speech recently when an attendee asked how she could donate money. Not set up as a nonprofit, the business couldn't accept the funds. Thus Keys to Freedom was born.
Wynn said more sober-living facilities are desperately needed in Northwest Indiana, particularly in Lake County, as the nearest ones are in Valparaiso. He hopes the nonprofit can attract local government funding for such a building.
"I've managed sober living, so I've seen how it can help addicts," said Kaye Miceli, of Keys to Freedom and Never Alone Recovery. "They leave with a different expectation and suddenly they want to be different. Even making your bed in the morning is about taking care of yourself."
She compared it to being in the military and learning discipline, self-responsibility, self-worth.
Wynn said it's about "teaching these people how to live" and assimilating "back into society" when they've been "apart from it for so long."
Keys to Freedom has also started a weekly community addiction support group Wednesdays in Orland Park and hopes to bring one to Northwest Indiana as well.
"The goal is to destigmatize addiction," Wynn said, noting the group is open to anyone: people with addiction, their families, treatment professionals. "If we don't understand it, we're not going to be able do anything about it."
Wynn, who is himself in recovery, noted that he went to Munster High School, which is typically not thought of as a bastion of substance abuse. But drugs are everywhere.
"If someone tells me they don't know somebody struggling with addiction, they're lying or they don't know they're addicted yet," he said.
The nonprofit is also working with area law enforcement agencies to divert people with addiction into treatment instead of jail, and wants to encourage more local employers to hire drug felons.
"There's people who want to help. There's people who need help," Miceli said. "How do we connect them all?"
"The antidote to addiction is connection," Wynn said.