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Chicago's "To Walk in My Shoes" offers support for those in drug addiction crisis

Chicago organization combating drug overdoses on West Side
Chicago organization combating drug overdoses on West Side 02:47

CHICAGO (CBS) — The organization To Walk in My Shoes started six years ago, and its name comes from the story of Marnell Brown and his journey of recovery from heroin addiction, who's been clean for more than 20 years. 

Now, Brown and members of his organization are devoting their time to stopping overdose deaths on Chicago's West Side.

Driving through the streets of West Garfield Park, they listen to scanners for ambulance calls.

"The scanner runs 24 hours a day. Somebody is always on that scanner."

They're looking for people in pictures taken by members of the organization. Each person in these photos overdosed on fentanyl, but a lifesaving nasal spray dose of Narcan from a member of "Walk in My Shoes" brought each person back to life.

"People know they're near death right, and some of them are receptive to the information that we have once they revive."

Marnell Brown understands what it's like to be driven to take a drug each day and even to overdose. He was addicted to heroin. He's been clean for more than two decades.

In 2018, he founded To Walk in My Shoes to save lives. His inspiration was not only his journey to sobriety but the death of the mother of his six children. Mildred Davis died from a heroin overdose 25 years ago.

"I don't want to see a child go through what my children went through," Brown said.

"This is an international problem, but on the West Side, it is an epidemic."

State Rep. LaShawn Ford  (D-8th) has been instrumental in getting state funding for Brown's program.

"They know the people that need the help, and people trust the people in this organization," Ford said. 

To Walk in My Shoes also helps overdose victims get treatment to beat their addiction.

Brown and members of his organization canvas neighborhoods on the West Side five days a week. Member Juanita Knowles found a man unresponsive. She gave him Narcan. When police arrived, she told them what she'd done. An officer gave him a second dose. He finally regained consciousness.

Brown knows when there's a "Pass Out" day in the community, when dealers give out samples free of charge, there's going to be lots of overdoses.

Member Kevin Brown said he's even trained dealers to administer the nasal spray.

"Sometimes you find a problem is impossible to solve right then, but what you want to do is reduce the harm," Brown said. 

In just two days, Brown said, on the West Side, they gave out 160 doses of Narcan to people who were high, and in just one day, they revived 15 people using the medicine.

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