After Obamacare: The Affordable Care Act And One Woman’s Struggle For Sobriety

Mar 13, 2017

After decades of substance abuse, Wendy Crites is in recovery from heroin addiction.
Credit Rebecca Kiger

Wendy Crites is a single mom, a Christian and a recovering addict in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. She's on parole and receiving substance abuse treatment through the Jefferson Day Report Center. Crites has been using drugs since she was 13, intravenously since she was 15.

“Everyone has some kind of addiction,” she said. “I believe it’s that hole everyone has in their heart that you’re trying to fill -- I’ve filled it with drugs. I think it’s really something only God can do. And I think he uses our weaknesses to bring us to him.”

Crites has a 26-year-old daughter, Ashley, and a 12-year-old son, Devin.

“I have the sweetest son - half of his life he’s saw me be strung out on drugs. He’s getting ready be a teenager, and I just want to be a good role model for him.”

Crites has worked a variety of jobs since she was 16-years-old but dreams of having a stable job with benefits that would allow her to save money and provide for her kids. That’s a tall order for anyone with felony charges, albeit nonviolent charges in her case.

Watch: Wendy's Story

The program helping Wendy Crites is supported by the Affordable Care Act. Click here to learn what might happen if that support goes away. Read more here. 

She relies on her faith and her desire to be a good parent to motivate her through recovery.

She also relies on the services provided through the Jefferson Day Report Center. These services include transportation, mental and behavioral health, and various forms of medically-assisted substance abuse treatment -- all covered under the Affordable Care Act. Through the center, Crites receives Suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid addiction by reducing withdrawal symptoms and the urge to use.

Crites in a waiting room at the Jefferson Day Report Center, where she receives counseling and medical treatment for addiction.
Credit Rebecca Kiger

“Between the meetings, the counseling, the Suboxone, and God … that program saved me.”

Without the support of these services, a simple misstep could jeopardize months or years of sobriety. Crites recently broke her ankle while working.

“My daughter, when she first found out I broke my foot, her first thought was: ‘I’m afraid mom’s gonna use again.’”

Crites with her 26-year-old daughter, Ashley, and 12-year-old son, Devin.
Credit Rebecca Kiger

Despite having a broken foot, lacking a vehicle, being denied food stamps because she’s a drug offender, and having to build a new social support system from scratch at 50 years old, Crites is, so far, maintaining her sobriety.

This story was produced in collaboration with 100 Days in Appalachia.

As Congress considers repealing the Affordable Care Act, health professionals in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia grapple with what that might mean for a region where many depend on the law for access to care. This series from the ReSource explores what's ahead for the Ohio Valley after Obamacare. See more stories here.