Charlotte Man Comes Full Circle In Addiction Epidemic

CHARLOTTE, NC– The opioid epidemic is spurring conversations and regulations across the country.

Now, we’re hearing from a Charlotte man who went from homeless and addicted to working at a hospital helping others.

The journey has come full circle for Ricky Witherspoon.

“I’ve been homeless, helpless, hopeless. I can remember being homeless on the streets as long as four years,” said Witherspoon.

He started drugs at the age of 11.

“I didn’t think there was a better life for me,” said Witherspoon.

By 40, he was addicted to heroin, struggling with mental illness and relapsed 15 times.

Then, his fiancee unexpectedly died.

“That’s when I decided to get busy living she was my number one supporter, and I wanted to honor her death by staying clean.,” said Witherspoon.

He ended up at the behavioral health center on Billingsley Rd.

Days later, his medication started helping the mental illness. Doctors and therapist helped him recover from addiction.

However, recover, is something Atrium Health says it has done differently in the past six months.

“The more progressive programs are really focusing on recovery,” said Victor Armstrong, Vice President of Behavioral Health at Atrium Health.
Atrium Health unveiled the Eagle Program.

Patients see doctors, therapists and job coordinators that help the person with mental health and addiction. Plus, they have peer support specialists.

“Someone who can say I’ve been where you been I’ve walked a mile in your shoes I’ve recovered I’ve survived,” said Armstrong.

Peers show up at a patient’s home and help them on a daily basis.

Atrium Health gave Witherspoon a full-time job as a peer specialist.

“We do recover,” said Witherspoon.

He helps CMPD officers train to deal with mental health calls.

He’s opened his own support group in Salisbury.

This month, he opens a family support group in Charlotte.

“I never saw that coming,” said Witherspoon. “I get up every day grateful. It’s easy for me because I’ve lived that life. Now, I have a better life so why not share what I have.”

The Eagle Program has provided treatment to 29 patients so far.

They have had positive outcomes including college enrollment and getting jobs.