Fresh Start helping moms reclaim lives

Recovery from drug addiction is a long road, often with many stops and starts. The journey is different for everyone, but for young women and mothers in particular, getting well is about reclaiming far more than just their own lives.

Fresh Start Recovery Center is nearing its first anniversary, and already the number of clients it has helped overcome addiction is eye-opening.

Through mid-October, the facility that opened in the former downtown Columbus post office building at 703 Washington St. has served 112 women and 60 children.

That’s a far greater number than program director Hillary England said she expected, but it also demonstrates the essential need for services such as this in the community. Time and again, we see that where public health is concerned, there are few greater unmet needs than drug addiction recovery and treatment programs.

Based on first-year results, Fresh Start deserves the community’s appreciation and support.

The Fresh Start program launched on Nov. 2, 2020, and the number of people served exceeded expectations despite the pandemic. The facility has accommodations that normally would house up to 25 women, but the need to social distance means capacity has temporarily been reduced to 15.

Each of those numbers has a story. Kimberly Tungate shared hers with Republic reporter Andy East. She said she hoped by doing so that she would inspire other women gripped by addiction to seek recovery.

Tungate’s older children had been removed from her care due to her methamphetamine addiction, which the 34-year-old said began when she was just 15.

After she gave birth to a son a year ago, the newborn was immediately removed to foster care due to Tungate’s history of substance abuse. When the Indiana Department of Child Services allowed Tungate to visit her newborn son a month later, she said, she worried it might be the last time she would ever see him.

“It was very highly likely I’d never see any of (my children) again if I didn’t get it together,” Tungate said. “The very next morning I went to treatment.”

She began reclaim her life. She began to get better. She began to see her children again. She graduated from the program, got an apartment and is working at a Cummins manufacturing facility.

Her kids began to be in her life again.

“Recovery is possible,” Tungate said, especially for mothers like her who are motivated to get their kids back.

These are human stakes. We must do our best to help people who need it. Credit is due to Volunteers of America, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the Columbus Regional Health Foundation and the Department of Child Services, all of which played a role in getting the Fresh Start program off and running.

Likewise, those at Fresh Start who are helping young mothers overcome their addictions — at an early success rate of greater than 80% — are changing countless lives one day at a time.

But the most credit goes to the young women who took the brave and bold step of confronting their addiction and doing the hard work required to get well.

Fresh Start appears to be off to a great start. We wish the program and its clients continued success.