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Gillibrand seeks federal grant funding for addiction services

Brett Dahlberg
Lisa Erne, whose son has been working through addiction and treatment programs for years, speaks on Monday as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, looks on.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced a bill to fund community support programs for people who have substance use disorders, as well as their families. 

The bill, called the Family Support Services for Addiction Act of 2020, would create a $25 million pool of grant money for non-profit organizations that work in the addiction field.

Gillibrand, a Democrat, said that information about how to get people into treatment for substance use disorders is too scattered, and families find barriers to getting help.

“Finding the treatment options, finding the beds, finding the experts -- it’s really hard,” Gillibrand said.

Some of Monroe County’s nearly 200 overdose deaths in 2018 could have been avoided with more readily available outreach services, the senator said.

“Imagine if every public school kid in Rochester would have the chance to come sit down in a center like this and hear directly from experts about how drugs will change your life forever, and you may never recover,” Gillibrand said, speaking at a news conference at the Rochester branch of the National Coalition on Alcohol and Drug Dependence.

“Those are the kinds of outreach programs that really don’t exist yet, but if they did, it could have an impact,” she said. “Even having one more outreach specialist could reach hundreds more people.”

Lisa Erne, whose son has been working through addiction and treatment for years, said that if the bill is passed, she hopes some of the outreach money goes toward families.

Erne said because of the stigma still associated with addiction, families of people in treatment for it don’t get the same kind of emotional support as families of people dealing with other health problems.

“Say, you know, your 20-year-old all of a sudden is diagnosed with leukemia,” Erne said. “All of a sudden, everybody surrounds you and gives this support.

“Well, when you’re out there, and your 20-year-old is all of a sudden incarcerated, people aren’t coming up and hand-holding you and saying, ‘You’re going to be okay.’”

Gillibrand said she expects the grant money to fund programs that reduce stigma around addiction and treat it as a health issue, rather than a moral failing.

The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican of West Virginia.

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