CINCINNATI – Tracy Brumfield greets her former probation officer, Abby Mulligan, on a chance meeting outside the Hamilton County Justice Center.
“I never thought I'd be like happy to see you, but it's good to see you,” a smiling Brumfield tells Mulligan.
Brumfield, a recovering addict, calls the jail and the area outside “ground zero” in the opioid crisis. It’s where she is reaching out to help others.
It’s where she passes out RISE, the newspaper she publishes. It's a guide for everything from substance abuse treatment to food and shelter.
"It's actually distributed inside the jail for inmates so that they can plan for when they get out," she says.
There’s a website, too - riseupnews.org
“I’m in recovery. I'm a recovering heroin addict, actually, and because of my active addiction I experienced homelessness, incarceration, an inability to find employment. It was very difficult,” Brumfield says.
"So when I got clean, I decided it was important for me to give back."
Brumfield has made it her business to help those who are where she was. She’s part of the grassroots effort that police, courts and medical care workers say is crucial to making a dent in the addiction crisis.
Brumfield began by mentoring women in the jail's heroin recovery pod (started in 2016) and felt she wanted and needed to do more.
"You know, we just talk about their issues and their needs and what they're looking for when they get out. Most of the women in there are parents," she says.
"They don't necessarily have a safe place to go when they leave. They certainly have difficulty finding employment so these are the kinds of issues we like to address in our conversations."
Then came RISE, an acronym for Re-Enter Into Society Empowered.
“The latest issue is called 'Making it Work' and it centers around job readiness and employment opportunities for those suffering from barriers of criminal charges and possible substance abuse issues,” Brumfield said.
“And we also have stories of hope. We have stories of inspiration.”
Brumfield's idea to circulate this in and around the jail won a grant from the Haile Foundation that enabled RISE to assemble a team of writers and designers to give people at their worst the best advice, direction and support.
“This is where people are released and this is where they come out typically,” Brumfield says as she stands near the front door. “They're sitting along here having a hard time figuring out where they're going to go, what they're going to do.
"I think there is a window of time when people want help and that's when maybe they have that little bit of a clarity and they're sober and we're hoping that by picking up an issue of RISE they're going to be able to connect with these particular agencies and resources that are going to get them on their feet."
Brumfield has come a long way - the publisher now hoping others will read all about it.
A Call From Voice To Action
The Hamilton County Heroin Coalition is inviting you to meet with them this Saturday. They want to brainstorm and see who could help with what in more of a grassroots way as we wrap our arms around the opioid crisis.
The event will be at Norwood High School from 9 a.m. until noon.