VT Adult and Teen Challenge:Helping Change Lives

By Kristen Tripodi

Published 06/19 2014 06:24PM

Updated 06/19 2014 06:35PM

JOHNSON, Vt. - It's a weekly news headline Vermonters are becoming accustomed too: a drug bust in the state, usually involving heroin or opiates. And while there are waiting lists at most treatment centers one center is working to accommodate as many people as possible.

For Jamie Mercia drugs and alcohol used to be a way of life.

“I didn't go searching for it. It found me. I just opened my hands and my body to it,” said Mercia.

After he was in and out of jail several times for drug related charges, Mercia decided enough was enough.

“I came to a point in my life where I needed a change and I wanted a change more than I wanted to hurt,” said Mercia.

He found that change at the Vermont Adult and Teen Challenge in Johnson, Vermont. It's a non-profit rehabilitation center that helps men addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Mercia describes the program in one word: “Life changing,” said Mercia.

And Mercia says that's because everyone on staff knows what the addicts are going through because they used to be addicts themselves.

“That includes myself- I was a drug addict for 17 years,” said Gilles Gentley, the Director of Admission at the VT Adult and Teen Challenge.

Gentley says he's seen the need for treatment grow significantly in the past decade.

“They can’t even find another place that doesn’t have at least a ten day waiting list,” said Gentley.

like many facilites across the state, this facility has been full for months. they have more than 50 men staying here for treatment. and everyday organizers say they receive more calls from people wanting help.

“Even if we are full, somebody is willing to give up their bed and sleep on a cot so somebody else can come in. We want to see them physically well, mentally well, spiritually well, and socially adjusted,” said Gentley.

Now after completing the program Mercia says he’s clean and staying on at the center as a maintenance worker; ready to pay it forward.

“I want to give back to this community, to this program and what they did for me; I want somebody else to get it,” said Mercia.

The program runs entirely on donations and Friday is one of their big fundraisers of the year: a golf tournament in Vergennes, Vt.  Tee-off is at 9:00 a.m. at Basin Harbor Club and the organizers say there is still space available to participate.

But if you want to help in other ways, the center is always looking for donations in the form of toiletries, bedding, towels, or even men’s clothing; as many of the addicts come to the center with few belongings.

For more information on where you can donate - visit their website by clicking here.

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