RICHMOND, Ky. (FOX 56) – In the last year, for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, the pandemic only helped fuel an already raging epidemic in this state.
In Madison County, overdose calls are up 50 percent from this time last year, and the recovery community there is working around the clock to try and save lives.
One couple wants to be a part of the change by opening what they call a ‘soulful enterprise’ to help get people in recovery back to work.
To really know someone’s story, you need to try and walk their path.
“It was 20 years ago standing on this corner, we came to these bars, that’s the life we lived at an early age drinking at these bars,” said Mike St. John.
Down the same streets and go back to where it all started.
“20 years ago this was where my addiction and alcoholism started, here we are standing,” said St. John.
If there is anyone who knows the streets of Richmond, it’s Mike St. John. He has known addiction, homelessness and coming out on the other side.
Now sober, this husband and father of two is walking a much different path thanks to recovery.
“And today God has allowed me to turn my mess here in Madison Co. into a message of hope,” said St. John.
Part of the message is helping the community understand the true scope of the drug problem around them.
In Madison Co., drug overdoses and deaths have skyrocketed in 2021. In talking with the Madison Co. coroner, there had already been more than 100 overdose calls and 28 drug-related deaths.
It is something Richmond Officer Daniel Kirstein sees routinely.
“I hate to even guess, but it looks like we might double our drug overdose numbers this year which is extremely unfortunate. The homeless number continues to rise and it’s staggering for our community, its staggering as an officer, its staggering for my co-workers,” said Daniel Kirstein.
And it’s working the streets of Richmond that Officer Kirstein has spent a lot of time talking and listening to people struggling with addiction. His question to them, how he can be a part of the solution?
“The most consistent answer that I got was, ‘Dan, it’s not rehab, I can do rehab. I’ve done rehab.’ One female even told me she had done rehab 17 times, it’s the after,” said Kirstein.
In a county where the addiction recovery community is hard at work, coupled with a growing number of job openings Kirstein and his wife India say they have been called to join the effort to help.
“We were inspired honestly by a man that we don’t know on Facebook who shared about his struggles with consistent employment and how it had led to homelessness,” said India Kirstein.
India and Daniel are starting EnRich, a nonprofit aimed at providing meaningful employment by opening a restaurant.
“We are concentrating not on revenue, but on the soulful investment we can make back into our community. So, we started looking at what that might look like,” said Dan Kirstein.
They want to employ people deemed by some in the workforce community as too difficult to employ, people with alternative resumes. People who might be homeless, in active recovery or just released from jail.
“We want to remove as many of those obstacles as possible, that’s our goal. Transportation, hygiene, showers, clean clothes hours that work around NA and AA meeting schedules,” said Kirstein.
The restaurant is a do-it-yourself pancake place where you fix your own food at the table. Customers aren’t served directly by employees which is by design.
The goal is to provide a second chance through employment, while also helping put a face to recovery for their patrons.
“We want our employees to have as much interaction with the public as possible, put names and faces and stories to these numbers. We have these terribly staggering overdose rates now and we want people to see faces and know stories,” said India Kirstein.
Mike St. John could have easily been one of those numbers.
“We are showing that people can change,” said Mike St. John.
There was a time he thought the streets of Richmond would swallow him up. He’s now joining forces with EnRich, hoping to get others off the streets and back to work, a full-circle moment in his own road to recovery.
“We have got to have recovery in this town, God is moving in Madison County,” said Mike St. John.
EnRich is currently raising money for its brick-and-mortar location. You can help by joining them on June 5 for an event at Canaan Acres Farm, for music and food starting at five.