Union Rescue Mission tackling growing meth problem

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The local non-profit, Union Rescue Mission, is tackling the growing methamphetamine problem with a faith-based approach.

This northeast Wichita facility, at 2800 North Hillside, is better known for their emergency homeless shelter, but they offer a wide array of programs that tackle the problems of homelessness and addiction.

"I have a job that I love, helping the Mission, and trying to pay back little bit of what I can," said Merrill Rabus, a full-time employee of New Leaf, an online book store operated by the URM.

Rabus is one of hundreds of graduates of the URM's New Beginnings program. 

It is a 7-month-long residential program for recovery from homelessness, which focuses on recovery, restoration, and redirection of a man's life.

And, it showed Rabus, "Love, compassion, community."

Those who work with former addicts say the community is affected by the growing meth problem. But, it is also the community that is needed to battle this problem.

"People steal, rob, and kill just to get a $20 bill, so they can go get high or try to get high. It's gets to the point that you don't get high anymore, you're just doing it because you're doing it," said Rabus, who was addicted to meth for a majority of his 52 years of life. 

He became clean more than four years ago.

"It's the only that helped me. It was in fact my faith," said Rabus.

Methamphetamine is the drug of choice by many in Kansas, who are committing crimes. 

"It's a cheap drug. Folks buy that drug instead of your synthetics or your cocaine or heroin," said Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter.

Easter and his deputies are battling overcrowding and under staffing at the Sedgwick County Jail.

"We are always overcrowded because we're dealing with the same folks over and over again, because of these two main issues - substance abuse and mental illness issues," said Easter.

It is estimated that 30-35% of inmates have some type of mental health problem, and 75% have some type of substance abuse problem.

"We've been fighting the war on drugs for 30 years. We're not winning. We're not going to win the war on drugs. We've got to think of this in a different kind of model," said Easter.

The URM is tackling that problem every day, and one man at a time.

"We definitely need more education. We definitely need to be putting less people in jail and more people into treatment. It is a community problem and we have to come together as a community if we're going to solve this problem," said David Bilas, a case manager and licensed addictions counselor at URM.

To learn more about the Union Rescue Mission, click here

To drop off used books, go to 3250 East 27th Street, Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm. You can also learn more about New Leaf by clicking here.

If you are seeking help, call the Community Crisis Center Hotline at (316) 660-7500 or the National Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.