VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Drugs have become a major problem across the country.

Over 96,000 people die from overdoses every year, with opioids playing a factor in 7 out of 10 overdose deaths, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse statistics.

What You Need To Know

  • Over 96,000 people die from drug overdoses every year, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse

  • Volusia County leaders are working to create a recovery friendly workplace proram to help those in the recovery process

  • Businesses that join will gain certification to be recognized as a recovery friendly workplace

The Volusia Recovery Alliance and the Port Orange South Daytona Chamber of Commerce are taking aim at substance abuse disorder by developing a recovery friendly workplace initiative — which aims to give those in recovery a sense of structure, community and purpose.  

“It is so important for people to understand that substance abuse disorder is a disease and that members of our recovery community really need the opportunity to get viable employment because it’s one of those recovery tools that really helps ensure that the person stays in the recovery process,” said Karen Chrapek, Executive Director, Volusia Recovery Alliance.

Right now, leaders are in the process of developing a toolkit and training for businesses. 

One local business owner is making an effort to do this. Nick Dawes is focused on the future. As owner of E2E marketing solutions in Daytona Beach, it’s all that matters to him. He prides himself on not dwelling on the past, especially those of his employees, many of whom are in recovery.

“Everybody likes the fact that, that is something they don’t have to worry about. That they can talk openly about their recovery and where they are at and what is going on and if they are struggling and I support that,” said Dawes.

He knows firsthand what they are going through, as he is in recovery himself.

“I have been to 28 detoxes. I have been to seven treatment centers, and I have done a little over two years of incarceration and the root of it was substance use,” said Dawes.

He never thought a future like this would be possible for him because of his past, but everything changed when someone gave him a chance.

“Now here comes somebody believes in me. I have self worth now. I have a job. I can help take care of my family, you know what I mean? I have kids and all that kind of stuff, but somebody had to do that for me, somebody had to give me an opportunity.”

Now his mission is to give the same chance to others.

“I wanted nothing more than to be able to give other people the opportunity because I never thought in my life that I would be able to be where I am today. When I think of almost nine years ago, I had one set of clothes, prison hanging over my head and nobody wanted to talk to me,” said Dawes.

But he knows how difficult chances are to find. Which is why he is supporting the Volusia Recovery Alliance’s Recovery friendly workplace initiative, which encourages local businesses to help those making changes in their lives. Local leaders gathered to discuss the program, recognizing that the opioid epidemic is hitting Volusia hard and steps need to be taken to help people break the cycle.

“When you hear the numbers, just to sum it up, since 2020, almost 1,200 Volusia County residents have lost their lives from overdose when fentanyl is involved. Almost 85,00 have overdosed,” said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood while speaking at the event.

Dawes, who started drugs at just 13-years-old, knows how bad it can get and how hopeless it can feel to get away from. So he’s hoping more businesses step up to help those actively looking to change.

“In that process I have been able to attain and have employees that are some of the best employees out there,” said Dawes. “They work harder than most people who don’t know what it is like to try and get a second chance.”

He’s hopeful that other local business owners will want to create the same environment he does.

“If I can start my life over and the people in here can start their lives over and have a good job and take care of their families, then I think that is a success,” said Dawes.

Leaders at Port Orange Chamber of Commerce and Volusia Recovery Alliance say they are in the process of developing the program to where businesses will gain certification to be recognized as a recovery friendly workplace.