BENTON, AR – The Benton Police Department is adding a new position to help lower the number of overdoses in the city.
This summer, the department hired its first Peer Recovery Specialist, a person to help guide others through the first steps in recovery.
“A lot of times when someone is in that situation, if there’s any kind of push back or it’s difficult, it’s real easy to just give up,” Benton PD Peer Recovery Specialist Sean Willits said.
Willits rides alongside Police Officers to almost every overdose call. It’s his job to offer resources to the individual for recovery.
He said his role is an important one and could be the difference between life and death.
Willits is now 6 years in recovery and said he can connect on a deeper level with the people he runs into.
“The paramedics, the doctor, the people at the hospital – everybody wants to help them and wants to see them do better, but it’s just different when none of those people have actually been on that table after having an overdose,” Willets said. “Just being able to show up and tell them that I’ve overdosed. I’ve been where you are and I’ve been through it, that helps a lot.”
Since he started in July, Willets said there have been 13 overdose calls in Benton. He has been able to connect with all of them, offering support and a path forward.
“Seeing it in other people and knowing that it’s true makes it easier to believe that maybe it’s possible for you too,” Amanda Fredrick said.
Fredrick started using when she was just 13 years old.
“I was young and before I knew it, I was addicted,” Fredrick said. “I had given up every single thing that had ever mattered to me.”
Now 13 years in recovery, Fredrick said it was the people in her corner that helped her through it all.
“For me, it really does always boil down to love and wanting to love and be loved,” Fredrick said. “Finding that in a group of people that are like me changed everything for me.”
Willits said he hopes to be that person for others and change the stigma around addiction.