Substance use disorder, mental health illness and homelessness: How “On Our Own Frederick” heals


39-year-old Sharon Bunai has been clean for five months, but the track marks on her arms show the life she lived for six years before she got help.

“For the past several years, I had struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues. [I was] in-and-out of rehabs, psychiatric wards and behavioral health units,” said On Our Own Frederick member and volunteer, Sharon Bunai.

Sharon was homeless and addicted to heroin and cocaine. She said seeing people close to her having overdoses is what lead her to get help at On Our Own Frederick, a state-funded wellness and recovery center.

“That situation didn’t end up in a death at that time, but for me, I saw enough for the last couple of months that I was there. I guess I just made [the] decision that I didn’t want to die,”added Bunai.

Officials with On Our Own Frederick said they help about 400 people a year.

“Everybody here has some degree of experience with mental health issues. Many of us have been institutionalized. Many of us have been medicated way beyond what might have been useful, and there are a lot of homeless folks here,” said the Executive Director for On Our Own Frederick, Eric Wakefield.

“What we do here is we help each other. People who have been there, who understand where the struggle lies,” added Bunai.

The help that Bunai got from On Our Own Frederick inspired her to become a volunteer, and, now, she’s helping others who are in the shoes she once filled.

“It gives me a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning and belonging,” said Bunai.

To learn more about On Our Own Frederick, visit their website at

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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