Advocates tout success of program in battle against opioid epidemic

Oct 18, 2017

(L to R) Michael King, director of outreach, Facing Addiction; recovery advocate Carlee Hulsizer; Gates town supervisor Mark Assini; David Attridge, executive director, Recovery NOW NY
Credit Beth Adams/WXXI News

A grassroots community organization is reporting success with a program designed to help people trying to overcome addiction to opioids.

Over the past eight weeks, 47 individuals have been enrolled in addiction treatment programs after they attended a drop-in center in the town of Gates.

"Gates to Recovery" is a program that runs every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Gates recreation center meeting room.  It's open to anyone looking for support or information. 

David Attridge, head of the organization Recovery Now NY, said his volunteers work tirelessly to help people get into treatment when they show enough courage to step  forward.

"Getting that window of opportunity when that person wants that help...that small window...we need to be able to get them into treatment right away, as soon as possible."

Attridge said volunteers working at the drop-in center have been able to get people into treatment within 24 hours, compared to the five day to three week wait faced by many. "We don't stop," Attridge said, when asked how his group cuts through the red tape.  He said more funding for more treatment options will be one of the keys to battling the opioid epidemic.

Gates town supervisor Mark Assini said the drop-in program has no cost; the town merely provides the space for community groups to do their outreach work.

"There are some great government officials, there are some great administrators, some great hospitals,” Assini said. “With all respect to them, they do wonderful work and we need them, it's not them who will lead us out of this. It will be the people in the grassroots organizations who have lost loved ones, who have a stake in this personally."

Assini is trying to spread word of the success of the drop-in center to other community leaders. He said he has talked to Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren’s staff and to Monroe County officials.

Attridge would like to replicate the program throughout the Rochester area, but that would require funding, he said.  His organization has five volunteers completing 20 to 30 hours of paperwork for each individual who enters a treatment program and doesn’t want to ask them to do more.

But the idea could be advanced by other volunteer organizations. Rochester is one of 15 cities selected nationwide to take part in a community project to fight the opioid addiction crisis.

A representative of the national non-profit Facing Addiction was in Gates Wednesday training dozens of volunteer advocates to solve the problem at the grassroots level.

Michael King says this is done by using strategies to secure more funding, communicate with policy makers, and get more media coverage.

"Every community is slightly different in terms of what needs to happen immediately. We're not to tell folks what that is. These folks all know what needs to happen. What we're here to do is to help train the grassroots, train the advocates on what are the most effective approaches to get that stuff done."

130 Rochester area residents are involved in the effort. They met for a training session this afternoon at Gates Presbyterian Church.

"This is not a one year thing," said Attridge. "We're going to keep going until we end this epidemic."