emily polecaro

Emily Polecaro recently turned 18 and could only now get the help she needed in Delaware to battle an addiction she's had for years.

Emily Polecaro of Pike Creek has been living through the hell of the opioid epidemic, in the tight grips of addiction since she was in middle school.

"I've struggled for as long as I can remember," she said. "No one expects that, and no parent really wants to even think of that reality that their kid has started on this path, which is deadly."

She was in and out of rehab centers and hospitals dozens of times, her parents spending thousands of dollars on out-of-state programs, because with no youth addiction treatment centers, Delaware wasn't equipped to adequately treat her.  After 90 days in various out-of-state programs, she'd be sent back to the same school where her drug problem was rooted.

"Kids are forced to be sent right back to where you can get alcohol and drugs, easier than where you can on the street," she said.

And the vicious cycle repeated for her entire high school career, until she was eventually expelled from an entire school district; she left other schools in ambulances from alcohol poisoning and was eventually suspended.

Emily eventually sought help from the Bridge Way School in northeast Philadelphia, a private recovery high school to try to get the help she so desperately needed. Her commute was four hours roundtrip each day. Due to the travel and the expensive price tag, her attendance was short-lived.

"That was my only option....we felt kind of trapped."

By the end of her high school career, she was hooked on heroin, living the addicted lifestyle full-time.

Only now that's she's turned 18 can she get the help she needs to embark on a successful recovery journey. Now, Emily has a sense of hope. She's staying long-term at the Limen House, a supportive home in Wilmington for women in recovery.

"In early sobriety, that's what young people need, they need that support, they need that structure, and they need that accountability," she said. "People my age their friends think its still cool to drink and drug...but the reality is a whole generation is dying from this thing...kids are getting into this, and addiction doesn't discriminate..your friends are dying from this, your neighbors are dying from this, you may see someone on the news, but it will get closer and closer and closer until it's your child."

She'll be at Limen House for up to two years, taking advantage of the programming and not just taking up a bed.

"I struggle on a daily basis, recovery is so hard," she said. "Without Limen House, I don't know if I'd be sober today...it's a beautiful place, and its' a place were healing occurs, and you can feel the power in the walls of women that have been there, women that are yet to come and just the promises that recovery holds for you in your life."

She pleaded with state officials to spend some of their surplus monies on a recovery high school--one she could haven't benefited from profusely had it been in existence. Red Clay has already offered to staff the school and house it inside the James H. Groves Adult Education Center off Telegraph Road. The program needs $2 million in start-up funds to exist for four years.

"If there was another option for me, I may not have had all those years of in and out, in and out of rehab, outpatient, hospitals," she said. "All the deaths...it's all avoidable, but the resources just aren't there," she said. "What happens to the kids that don't make it to their 18?"

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On Friday, May 18, 2018, on Delaware's Morning News, listen for an in-depth look at the opioid crisis in the First State and efforts being made to curb addiction and help those who need treatment.

The session takes place from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. You can listen on 101.7FM, 1150AM or at WDEL.com.

Among the panelists scheduled to attend:

  • U.S. Sen. Chris Coons
  • Lynn Fahey, President and CEO, Brandywine Counseling Center
  • Recovery patients Holly Rybinski and Andrea Rider.
  • Dave Humes from atTAcK Addiction
  • Domenica Personti with Recovery Centers of America

Amy Cherry is the Assistant News Director and an investigative journalist at WDEL. She joined WDEL's award-winning news team in 2010 from WBZ Newsradio 1030 in Boston and has received national accolades for reporting.