One-of-a-kind website launched to help addicts and reduce stigma

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich -- Last year in Kent County alone there were more than 100 accidental drug overdoses.

Addictions don't discriminate. They affect everyone, regardless of profession, gender or race. Those suffering are factory workers, CEO's, physicians. Many of the, want hel, but aren't sure where to start.

That's why the Grand Rapids Red Project, a local non-profit, created a one-of-a-kind website to provide hope, support and resources for those suffering with substance use disorder.

"Accidental overdoses claim people at all social economic levels, of all races, of all genders," said Brian Keeley, development coordinator of the Grand Rapids Red Project.

The site's biggest goal, however, is to present people who are recovering day to day.

Douglas Hulst is one of those people "I had all of these wonderful things laid out for me," he said. His addiction was alcohol, and he lost his corporate job and a relationship.

Hulst says he's like everyone else. He enjoys watching movies, riding roller coasters and writing. He's currently writing a novel.

"We really want people to see the stereotypes are not true," said Keeley. "When people are excluded from the community, it creates barriers and hinders them from accessing support."

Sarah Vanfleteren was diagnosed with a mood disorder at the age of 12 and that's when she started abusing alcohol and heroin to "feel alive."

"It was pretty alarming," she said. "I didn’t have much hope until people started sharing their personal stories that sounded similar to mine."

That's what the Stigma Reduction Campaign and web page are designed to do. Both serve as a resource for addicts seeking treatment by answering questions and helping addicts and their families and friends find recovery support.

Keeley believes the new web site is one of only a few around the country, and he hopes it will be used as a national model. Hulst believes it could make a difference. "I think if I would have tumbled upon a website like this, I think my journey would have been different it would have been easier."

The website was funded with a grant from the Kent County Health Department.

The Grand Rapids Red Project is a local non-profit focused on public health, aiding mostly with HIV, Hapatitis C and accidental drug overdose.

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