The opioid crisis in the US is far from over, despite the lack of headlines screaming from news websites. But federal health officials reported more than 106,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2021 and more than 80,000 people involved in the use of opioids. Ohio remains one of the states worst hit by this epidemic with 4,313 people lost to opioid overdoses in 2021. As a recovered addict, Matt Bell knows this personally and wants to do something about it.
The 36-year-old Bell started Team Recovery in Toledo to put his firsthand knowledge to work helping others in Ohio. The program started in 2016 and was later licensed as a treatment center. Bell has gone back to college to better understand all sides of the drug crisis.
“I’m a year away from graduating from social work school, and not that I need to be a social worker, but I want to understand social work to make me a better business treatment center owner,” Bell says. “All I’ve done is just speak the truth, and do what I say I’m going to do. And it’s just been so warmly received and needed, significantly needed.”
From 2014 to 2016, Ohio was leading the nation in the number of opioid overdose deaths. Bell could have been one of those stark numbers, but he got sober in 2015. And that’s when he decided to stay in the community he loves and help other locals escape their addiction. Bell hired the best people in the business to run his center, but as CEO, he’s unique. He’s an alumnus of 28 treatment programs.
“There’s nobody else out there that can say that truly,” Bell says. “These other treatment centers are either nonprofit board-funded and their CEO is hired in from another place. Nobody can really say that they went through it, they lived it. No one is like me, who went to all the other treatment centers and now can say I own my own. There’s a personal mindset and viewpoint that I have about this that nobody else can say that they have. And that’s powerful.”
Although Bell has a unique viewpoint now, he started much like many addicts. His beloved father died. He turned to mild drugs to cope, starting with cigarettes, moving to alcohol, then marijuana and the occasional pill. And, like so many Americans, he was injured and given opioid pain pills, The rest is the same old story. Except for the end.
“What I want people to really, really, really understand is that no matter how far down the scale you’ve gone, I am living proof that you can not only stop doing that, but you can live a life beyond your wildest imaginations. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but it’s never too late.”
Bell is now writing a book about his life, addiction, and recovery. A very busy man, he has literally scheduled writing time on his calendar for writing and editing the book. He will publish it himself and give all proceeds to charity to help families and children affected by addiction as well as the addicts who are struggling.
The first book will be a memoir, with others about other aspects of drug addiction and recovery. Bell says it’s because he wants to see not only stories of people battling addiction, but also information about how the families and the addicts can work toward recovery and the future.
“Everything that I’ve seen on the opioid epidemic on large-scale media that’s made it to semi-big time has been just juice, like, ‘let’s tell a war story.’” Bell says. “Because that’s what people like to see. They like to see the drama, they like to see the chaos. Why do people slow down when driving by a car accident? Let’s make this look like a car accident. And let’s make it look like this tragic mess so that people get drawn into it and watch it. Viewers mean money.”
Meanwhile, Bell’s trusty calendar will keep him on track in his hometown of Toledo, running his business, helping addicts at Team Recovery, speaking, writing, sitting on charitable boards, and spending time with his family. Also, of course, being grateful that he was one of the lucky ones. That’s what keeps him going to save other Ohio addicts.