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I’ve Been Through the Same Thing: Justin Ochmanek’s Story

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Justin Ochmanek is the Director of Operations at Midwest and Ohio Detox Center in Maumee. Born and raised in Toledo, Ochmanek spent 13 and half years of his life addicted to heroin, crack cocaine, and alcohol. Despite having a good home and education, he threw almost everything away to use.

“I went to a good Catholic High School and played football. I had a full ride scholarship to West Virginia.I threw it all away for drugs and alcohol,” he said. “I went to college and basically dropped out six months after getting there.”

Upon returning home, Ochmanek continued to work in the restaurant industry, a culture that exacerbated his drug and alcohol use. While he functioned at work, he began to see frightening and dire consequences in his personal life.

“I’ve been arrested, I can’t even count how many times,” Ochmanek said. “The turning point for me was when the crimes I was committing were escalating in severity. It got to the point that I was either going to kill someone with a gun or be killed by someone with a gun.”

Ochmanek said at the time, the thought of being killed wasn’t as scary to him as the thought of killing someone else. He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in jail and having to live with that mental torment. In order to save his and another’s life, Ochmanek turned himself in to authorities and pleaded with the judge to sentence him to prison.

“He granted my wish actually,” Ochmanek said. “He sentenced me to six months in jail.”

Upon being released from jail, Ochmanek did something he’d never done before: sought treatment.

“Sober living humbled me,” he said. “It took me back to a level playing field where I didn’t think I was better than everyone else. It taught me some really important life lessons about what I need to be happy.”

In early sobriety, Ochmanek became involved in Team Recovery, a non-profit that aims to educate the public and end the stigma surrounding Substance Use Disorders. He began speaking engagements with Team Recovery, during which time he became acquainted with officers of the Toledo Police’s Drug Abuse Response Team (D.A.R.T.). D.A.R.T. is an agency that responds to overdose calls, and instead of arresting an individual, will offer them a chance to seek treatment. Ochmanek began attending speaking engagements for them as well, and going on ride-alongs to speak with individuals with Substance Use Disorders about life in recovery.

“When I was getting sober, working in treatment wasn’t what I wanted to do initially,” Ochmanek said. “The more I went along with D.A.R.T.,  I thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I found my path. My happiness was trying to help people not go down the same path I went down.”

Eventually Ochmanek was hired as a liaison for D.A.R.T. and an Ohio Medicaid treatment facility. Having met Matt Bell and Josh Dressel–respectively the CEO and Director of Operations at Midwest Recovery Center–through their work with Team Recovery, Ochmanek approached them about doing the same work for their new Medicaid treatment center and detox facility.

Within months of starting as a liaison with D.A.R.T. and Ohio Detox Center, Ochmanek learned of an opportunity to work as the Director of Operations at the latter facility.

“I thought, ‘Don’t go looking for someone else. This is me,” he said.

As the Director of Operations, Ochmanek is grateful for learning the ins and outs of how a treatment facility is run.

“You have to know what every department does,” he said. “If we only have one tech show up, we gotta go out there and help. We have to know what to do. If the intake coordinator can’t come in, I have to know how to do an intake.”

Having spent time in an area Medicaid facility, Ochmanek recognizes how special the Ohio Detox Center is. The facility itself offers many things that most government-run facilities don’t offer, such as access to video games and an ice cream machine.

“The clients are already uncomfortable. They don’t want to be in detox,” he said.  “There are those little things we can offer them that can make them want to stay. We’re trying to make you stay here and be as comfortable as possible.”

Beyond the facility itself, Ochmanek believes that the staff at Ohio Detox Center, many of whom have personal experience in recovery, are uniquely qualified to relate and therefore better treat the individuals in their care.

“We have staff that understands where somebody comes from. Our staff can relate better than those at a lot of other facilities,” he said. “We understand how they feel. Because a lot of us have gone through the same thing.”