YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — In Northeast Ohio, Trumbull County has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Health. To help reverse that statistic, a new substance abuse treatment center is now open in Niles.

What You Need To Know

  • New Day Recovery opened a new facility in Niles with the capacity to help around 200 clients with substance abuse addictions

  • Services are typically covered by insurance, Medicaid or grants

  • Trumbull County had the highest rate of unintentional overdose deaths in northeast Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health's most recent data 

Many of the staff members at New Day Recovery said they understand the struggle of sobriety. It’s a fight James McCarthy said he knows well, as he prepared for a different type of battle.

“Now I get to play Mortal Combat against my clients,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”

The game room at the facility doubles as a counseling center, providing a chance for staff and clients to interact without the strict structure of an office.

“Settings like this always provide the most therapeutic atmosphere for our client, and it allows the staff member to have some fun too,” said McCarthy, a chemical dependency counselor assistant. “It doesn’t feel like it’s work.”

But recovery takes work. Something McCarthy knows well.

“I’m just another recovering addict that’s trying to help you to the best of my ability,” he said.

McCarthy said peer pressure and wanting to fit in led him to crack cocaine and heroin.

“But it was never something that I woke up like, ‘Today’s gonna be the day that I ruin my life to drug addiction,’” he said. “It was something that was in me that once I activated and I opened that door by using that substance, I didn’t have a choice anymore. It completely took over.”

He said his family and friends had a hard time grasping his addiction.

“To them it was, ‘Just put it down, it’s destroying all that stuff,’” McCarthy said. “But once that disease completely took over, I didn’t have that choice anymore. It told me what to do. When it said, ‘Jump,’ I said, ‘How high?’”

McCarthy said it took an emotional low, the point of considering suicide, before he was open to embrace treatment at a New Day Recovery center, himself.

“I truly believe that I was placed in a position like this, and I went through what I went through, so I can have the opportunity to give this back,” he said.

But before clients can get to the games, Michael Gayhart goes through each new client’s bag. At the detox level of care, clients are only permitted to bring socks and underwear with them. Clothing and other essentials are provided.

“I’ve seen times when people actually restitched (a bag), opened it and stuck stuff in there, so when they finish the detox, they can have a celebration party when they walk out,” he said.

There’s a reason Gayhart knows all the hiding tricks.

“When I went into detoxes and stuff, I was this guy that did all the tricks and pranks and stuff like that,” he said.

After 15 years of being addicted to heroin, Gayhart is now seven years sober. The father of three said it took a confrontation from his oldest daughter before he could change.

“I had attempted suicide by overdose and I woke up in the hospital,” he said. “She looked me in the face and said, ‘Dad, why do you keep choosing drugs over me?’”

As someone in recovery, he can put himself in the clients’ shoes.

“When they come in, I always put myself back to the day that I came in,” he said. “The fear, the anxiety. Not knowing what’s next.”

Gayhart and other staff members show it’s possible to overcome addiction and also provide support.

“A lot of clients don’t realize this, but I need them more than they need me,” he said. “As an addict in recovery, community is very big. We need each other.”

At full capacity, the Niles center will be able to help about 200 clients at a time find a full recovery, including mental health care and even a job.

That transition is why Gayhart said he works there, for the client outcomes, not the income.

“No matter what, you’re gonna get a sobriety date,” he said. “It’s whether you pick it or it goes on a tombstone. And 90% of the time that clicks. That really clicks.”

McCarthy agreed, adding everyone deserves a chance at recovery.

“That is the most beautiful thing that anyone can ever experience in life is truly to see life come back into somebody again,” he said.

McCarthy said treatment services are paid through insurance, medicaid or grants.