Community creates 'moving' reminder of daily opioid struggle

Community creates 'moving' reminder of daily opioid struggle

Community creates 'moving' reminder of daily opioid struggle

September 12, 2018 11:39 PM

Gates to Recovery and the community are taking the fight against the opioid crisis on the road.

On Wednesday, a van was wrapped with the words "recovery is possible." 

It was also covered with the faces of people who have died from overdoses. A local support group contributed pictures to the movement. 

The van is meant to be a symbol of hope and a reminder that our fight against the epidemic is far from over. 

"Education is key.. awareness," stated Becky Baker, SOARS. "I think people still think addiction is a choice. There's no way in hell it's a choice. No one wakes up and says this is what I want to be when I grow up. It's a disease." 

Becky lost her son through an opioid overdose. His face, and the faces of his friends are on the van. 

If you or someone you know needs help, call the 24 hour hotline at: 585-310-4080.

On Friday, there will be another event to recognize the opioid epidemic. 

A service will be held at Our Mother of Sorrows Church at 5000 Mt. Read Blvd. Guest speakers include Becky Baker of SOARS, Father Bill Coffas of Mother of Sorrows and David Attridge from Gates to Recovery. 

For more information regarding this event call: 585 663 5432

WHECTV

State to provide $1M for detox beds in Monroe County

State to provide $1M for detox beds in Monroe County

Jonathan Westfall, program director of Find Your Path, and volunteer Kara Izzo collect used needles. Monroe County on Aug. 31 announced a @1 million state grant for 15 more detox beds. The beds will be operated by Helio Health on University Avenue.  (Photo: Patti Singer/staff photographer @PattiSingerRoc)

August 31

State to provide $1M for detox beds in Monroe County

Patti Singer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Published 1:27 pm E% Aug. 31, 2018

A $1 million state grant will mean 15 more detox beds in Monroe County, hopefully by the end of this year.  

The money will be used as part of an existing contract with Helio Health to expand short-term inpatient detox at 1350 University Ave.

Helio Health, formerly Syracuse Behavioral Health, will be renovating space adjacent to its current facility. The work is expected to be done by December, according to David Putney, director of Community Services for Monroe County. The department covers mental health, substance use and developmental disabilities.

The money from the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services was announced Friday by County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo. Of the grant, $564,374 is for start-up costs for Helio Health's medically supervised withdrawal inpatient services. An additional $450,000 will fund operational costs. 

Helio Health already operates 25 beds, but families affected by opioid addiction have clamored in recent months for more beds. A message left for the president and chief executive officer of Helio Health, which is based in Syracuse, was not immediately returned.

In the past month, Gates to Recovery has said it would refer people unable to find a local bed to a facility in Pennsylvania, and Gates officials also toured a city building that was formerly home to a detox center.

A phone call led Gates officials to tour a building that used to be a detox center, with the hope it can once again help people recover from drugs. Patti Singer, @PattiSingerRoc

Putney said the grant for the beds at Helio Health has been in the works for some time, has been following a process and was not a response to community advocates.

“The community is eager as we are to have more access to beds close to home or at home,” Putney said. “This is not an outgrowth to what Gates to Recovery has been doing. We honor and respect what they are doing with engaging the community, finding services and establishing a path to recovery. … These (beds) had been in the works based on what we as a provider system as well as the county administration has observed for many months is that we don’t have enough beds close to home.”

The beds are for short-term stabilization and not for in-patient rehabilitation. Still, an individual’s length of stay would depend on their need, Putney said. Detox also can be done on an out-patient basis. Once a person is stabilized, they can be referred to other services.

In March, the general counsel for OASAS said the agency was having discussions with Helio about increasing its number of beds. That same month, the agency loosened a regulation governing hospital detox beds. UR Medicine and Rochester Regional Health offer in-patient detox to people admitted for other medical needs, according to recent statements from each system.

Through July, 103 people in Monroe County died this year from a suspected opioid overdose, according to unofficial data collected by law enforcement data. In July, 18 people died from a suspected overdose. The Office of the Monroe County Medical Examiner compiles official statistics, but that data can take months to be released. According to the medical examiner, 220 people died of an overdose in 2017.

The $1 million for the detox beds comes a few days after the county announced it was getting $2.4 million on opioid and mental health services.  The money will be used to expand the Rochester Drug Court, to do outreach to expand connections to long-term treatment and recovery options, and to start a new mental health jail diversion drop-off center.

PSINGER@Gannett.com

Rochester drug court amid opioid crisis: "It's overwhelming"

Rochester drug court amid opioid crisis: "It's overwhelming"

Rochester drug court amid opioid crisis: "It's overwhelming"

by Jane Flasch 

Wednesday, August 22nd 2018

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - "All rise. Court is in session."

While presiding over drug court, Jack Elliott has heard it all. "I claim to be the most lied-to person in Monroe County," he said. "Oddly, even though I tell people not to use drugs, they still do."

Over the years, the former public defender and Rochester City Court Judge has heard it all - even when it comes to heroin.

Until now.

"It's the scary stuff that's coming in now: fentanyl. People are dying left and right," Elliot told 13 WHAM's Jane Flasch.

When Rochester's drug court diversion program opened 23 years ago, there were only five other similar programs in the country and none in New York State. This court has long dealt with addictive drugs but seldom with drugs as deadly as what is being consumed in this opioid epidemic.

The harshest drugs laced with fentanyl hit the streets in batches.

"They hear people are dying from it and they think, 'This must be the good stuff.' It's scary that people see this but still use," said Elliott.

It is not unusual to see people in this court fall into a relapse. But this drug continues to pull back many who have so much promise and have worked so hard to overcome its grip. Elliott remembered one case that led to a bad two weeks.

"I saw her Thursday and she was doing great - had been clean for 90 days," Elliot said. "The next day she was dead. It was five people within two weeks - dead."

When asked whether it ever gets to be too much, Judge Elliott responded, "Yes. It's a difficult job."

Elliot explained that when someone fails to show up to court, often indicating a relapse, he issues a bench warrant.

"It's a very dangerous time for someone trying to get clean. They're probably out there actively using. Their body is no longer used to that," Elliot said.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office now gives warrants from drug court special attention.

"I've had someone within 24 hours back in my court. It gets them safely off the street and safely back to me," said Elliott.

Drug court is for people with a significant criminal history who also have a significant addiction. Estimates are that eight of every ten defendants are addicted to opioids.

In dealing with the magnitude of this crisis, Judge Elliott remembers one thing.

"I can only deal with the person in front of me. So although we do change the world we change it one person at a time," he said. "That's what I focus on."

Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana to be available as substitute to prescribed opioids

Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle June 18, 2018

ALBANY — New York will make those who have been prescribed opioids eligible for medical marijuana in a move to try to limit drug abuse.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Monday the Health Department will expand the use of medical marijuana to be available as a substitute for an opioid prescription.

The goal, he said, would be to help reduce the number of patients who become addicted to opioids — such as OxyContin and Vicodin — after being prescribed them by a doctor for an ailment.

“What we are doing today is that we are finalizing regulations to include prescription opioids in our medical marijuana program under the Compassionate Care Act," Zucker told reporters in Brooklyn.

"So we are moving forward on that, and we will do it for prescription opioids starting now.

The announcement is the latest step by the state Health Department to expand the availability of medical marijuana in non-smokeable forms after it was legalized in 2016.

The program initially struggled with low participation and limited availability.

The state has added chronic pain, for example, to the eligible conditions and expanded who can get licensed to prescribe medical marijuana to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants. 

The latest move, Zucker said, is to offer an alternative to opioid prescriptions.

“So that means if an individual is taking prescription opioids, they could take medical marijuana as part of the program that we are pushing forward to hopefully come off prescription opioids as well," Zucker continued.

The number of opioid deaths in New York skyrocketed 135 percent between 2013 and 2016, an investigation this month by the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau found.

Zucker said the state continues to look at ways to bolster its medical marijuana program.

New York has 1,688 registered practitioners who can prescribe medical marijuana and nearly 59,000 patients who are certified to buy it at one of 20 dispensaries around New York

“We’ve grown the program over the course of time," Zucker said.

"We feel this is another way to move the program forward, particularly because there are individuals who are in chronic pain … We feel adding individuals who are on prescription opioids and having them part of the medical marijuana program will help them."

Marijuana advocates praised the health department's announcement.

“Clearly marijuana alone will not be the answer to New York’s problem with opioid misuse and overdose deaths, but available evidence indicates that it should be used with other harm reduction strategies" to address the issue, said Melissa Moore, New York's deputy director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

TREAT ADDICTION LIKE CANCER

TREAT ADDICTION LIKE CANCER

By Laura Hilgers - May 19, 2018

Ms. Hilgers (@Lhilgers)has written about having a child with an addiction and is a  is a freelance journalist

Two years ago, I spent a week in Houston helping my stepbrother while he underwent treatment for Stage 4 lymphoma at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. I sat with him while a nurse cleaned his chemo port and made records of her work, to keep his medical team updated. I accompanied him for the blood tests that determined his readiness for the next treatment. I stayed by his bed as his stem cells were harvested for a transplant, one of the cutting-edge, evidence-based therapies that ultimately saved his life.

Around the same time, I was helping my 22-year-old daughter, who struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. The contrast between the two experiences was stark. While my stepbrother received a doctor’s diagnosis, underwent a clearly defined treatment protocol and had his expenses covered by insurance, there was no road map for my daughter. She had gone undiagnosed for several years, despite my reaching out to her health care providers, who either minimized my concerns or weren’t sure what to do.

I had to hire an expensive interventionist — a professional who helps families find appropriate care and runs interventions — to find names of treatment centers. I spent weeks calling programs, asking questions and waiting to learn what insurance would cover. Finally, after my daughter agreed to treatment and we paid all costs up front, I sent her to a 45-day Arizona inpatient program, praying it would work.

Addiction, like cancer, is a complex disease that requires a multipronged approach. It also affects 1.5 times as many people as those with all cancers combined, and it was pivotal in causing some 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016 alone. It makes no sense that what is fast becoming our greatest health care crisis is still dealt with mostly outside the mainstream medical system.

According to a 2016 surgeon general’s report, 10 percent of the 21 million Americans with substance-use disorders will receive treatment. This is in part because there are no national standards of care for treating addiction, and the $35 billion rehab industry is regulated piecemeal, state by state. While many treatment programs offer excellent care, others are motivated by profit and engage in practices such as patient brokering (in which hefty sums are paid to those who refer an addict to a program) and charging insurers exorbitant fees.

On average, medical schools in the United States devote 12 hours to substance abuse, and little of that on diagnosing or treating the condition. Many doctors also struggle to get reimbursed for providing this care.

Addiction treatment has a long, fraught history. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, when addiction was, for the most part, considered a moral failing, people sought cures in asylums and “inebriate homes.” They also relied on doctors, who sometimes prescribed opiates to help morphine addicts slowly withdraw.

But with the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, and several Supreme Court decisions, the government began to prosecute these doctors. William L. White’s book “Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America” reports that more than 25,000 physicians were indicted between 1914 and 1938. Some 3,000 were jailed. “The practical effect of such enforcement,” wrote Mr. White, “was that physicians stopped treating addicted patients.”

Our understanding of addiction is different now. The surgeon general’s report defines it as a “chronic neurological disorder” and outlines evidence-based treatments. These include drugs like methadone and buprenorphine; individual and group counseling; step-down services after residential treatment; mutual aid groups like Alcoholics Anonymous; and long-term, coordinated care that includes recovery coaches.

Unfortunately, much of this knowledge isn’t being applied in doctors’ offices or even many treatment centers. “There’s a wealth of literature collected over many decades, along with a robust medical evidence base, showing what works and what doesn’t,” Dr. Anna Lembke, chief of the Stanford University Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic, told me. “Treatment for addiction works, on par with treatment for other chronic relapsing disorders. So, it’s not really that there’s no road map. It’s that the road map has not been recognized or embraced by the house of medicine.”

Dr. Lembke would like for a person afflicted with addiction to be able to arrive in an emergency room or a doctor’s office and find a protocol in place for immediate treatment, just as my stepbrother experienced with lymphoma. “That’s what we don’t have,” she said. “We have very high-end, and very expensive care, which is good care for those who can afford it, and then we have everybody else pretty much, for whom there’s limited care.”

Efforts are underway to create this much-needed change. The advocacy group Facing Addiction, along with the health care consulting firm Leavitt Partners, has assembled a team of experts and industry leaders to promote care models that help patients achieve long-term recovery and reward providers based on how well patients hit “recovery-linked performance measures.”

Another organization, Shatterproof, is working with 16 health insurers, which collectively cover 248 million people, to adopt national principles of care, including universal screening, access to medications and continuing long-term outpatient care. Gary Mendell, Shatterproof’s chief executive, believes that once private insurers recognize these standards and create financial incentives to meet them, the rest of the health care system will follow. It would be good if that included Medicaid and Medicare, which cover 69 percent of Americans’ addiction treatment.

The staggering economics of the opioid epidemic may be what forces our system to change. According to the nonprofit group FAIR Health, which draws on data from more than 21 billion privately billed health care claims, “Professional charges and allowed amounts for services for patients diagnosed with opioid abuse or dependence rose more than 1,000 percent from 2011 to 2015.” This increase, partly the result of addiction treatment coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act, may spur health care systems to create their own treatment centers.

Cost-effective health care providers like Kaiser Permanente and the Department of Veterans Affairs have been doing this for years, and at least one other major provider, Massachusetts General Hospital, recently integrated substance-use disorder care into its system. Another bright spot is the federal prison system, which offers a residential drug abuse program, typically lasting nine months, in 76 locations.

There is a risk, of course, in urging the very medical system that helped create the opioid epidemic to treat it. “What we don’t want to do is go from OxyContin pill mills to buprenorphine pill mills,” Dr. Lembke said. “I think the way to try to avoid that difficulty or disastrous unintended consequence is to really carefully and judiciously prescribe.”

It’s a risk we may have to take. Evidence-based research should not be perishing in peer-reviewed journals while people are dying or struggling to find effective care. The millions of people still suffering from addiction, and those in recovery, deserve the same level of gold-standard care that saved my stepbrother and my daughter, both of whom are now in remission.

 

Is Rochester on the verge of a new detox center?

Is Rochester on the verge of a new detox center?

Is Rochester on the verge of a new detox center?

Patti Singer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Published 12:44 p.m. ET Aug. 21, 2018 | Updated 5:04 p.m. ET Aug. 21, 2018

A phone call led Gates officials to tour a building that used to be a detox center, with the hope it can once again help people recover from drugs. Patti Singer, @PattiSingerRoc

(Photo: Patti Singer Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

On a day that started at the scene of another fatal overdose in his town, Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode spent some of his Monday afternoon looking for a way to help other families.

VanBrederode, Gates Supervisor Mark Assini and representatives of Gates to Recovery toured a city building that formerly housed a drug rehabilitation center to see whether it could serve that purpose once more.

“We’re trying to be part of the solution,” VanBrederode said in the front living room of 81 Barberry Terrace in north Rochester. “I don’t know if this is a viable option or not.” 

The brick building is owned by Pentecostal Miracle Deliverance Center Church on Portland Avenue and is part of its campus. According to a spokesman, the church contacted Gates to Recovery to offer the structure to an as-yet-undetermined treatment provider.

“We have some people who are dying from overdoses and they need some help,” said church member Ronald Wright. “They need a place to get that help. That’s all the church wants to do.”

Families and their advocates have been saying that in the midst of the opioid crisis, the Rochester area lacks inpatient beds for medically supervised drug withdrawal and stabilization — commonly called detox. 

In New York, detox services have to be certified by the Office for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Even if an existing provider wants to take on a site that can quickly be made ready, the process still can take a few months, according to a statement from OASAS.

The Finger Lakes region has five medical supervised withdrawal and stabilization programs with a total capacity to treat 56 people, according to the state. Through July, 103 people have died from suspected overdoses, according to data compiled by law enforcement. Police agencies reported 675 overdoses.

Why Gates officials came to city

Assini and VanBrederode looked like prospective homebuyers as they poked their heads around doors, walked into rooms and checked closet space.

Gates had 25 overdoses through July, according to law enforcement data. Only two were fatal, according to a map from the Monroe County Heroin Task Force. Assini and VanBrederode have been outspoken about the need for more services, and they support the nonprofit Recovery Now NY’s Gates to Recovery support services.

“I either sit and keep writing police reports for the dead bodies or I somehow use my influence as police chief to get the ball rolling,” VanBrederode said. “I guess I’m just a frustrated police chief who went to another death scene for another overdose.”

Asked whether it was in his job description to come to the city to find a detox center, Assini said, “Part of the job description of supervisor includes a lot of things, but saving lives is part of it. When it comes to saving lives, I think it’s everybody’s business.”

Assini said he has been told people providing detox services are at full capacity and there are no local beds available.

“We don’t take that at people’s words,” he said. “We found that there is available space, a former facility that did just what we’re looking for.”

What it takes to get a detox site

The church building is one of two that Gates to Recovery has been offered in the past few weeks. It received an email from a person saying he had a vacant adult-care facility in Shortsville, Ontario County.

David Attridge, executive director of Gates to Recovery, said his organization does not do medically supervised detox but it can help those providers find suitable locations.

“Not that we’re experts in any way, but this is something we can take back and say, ‘This is available right now,’” he said. “We need these beds. Why not?”

County and city records have the building address as 77 Barberry Terrace. According to county records, the nearly 10,000-square-foot structure is categorized for commercial use as a health facility. City records show the address has 11 code violations and is in tax foreclosure. Records do not list any tax exemptions.

Attridge said that the building had been used for many years as a detox center.

Wright, a member of the church, said it’s now used by the ministry to help people who are homeless. Most of the building is vacant, and it appeared on the walk-through that some repairs were being made. Wright said no details about the building have been discussed with any potential providers. “Right now, we’re just looking at collaborating. The building is available.”

VanBrederode and Assini said they planned to share information about the building with local treatment providers and with OASAS. According to a statement from OASAS, the organization is working on “setting up a meeting in the near future to work with the community, but no meeting has been confirmed at this time.”

The OASAS standards for medically supervised detox are laid out in a 40-page document. The process for approving new beds includes a review of the provider seeking a license and an assessment of the need in the community where a facility is proposed.

PSINGER@Gannett.com

Photojournalism project shines new light on addiction

Photojournalism project shines new light on addiction

By Andrew Freeman  |  August 25, 2018 @1:48 PM

A photojournalism exhibit opening on Monroe Avenue next month is shining a new light on addiction and recovery.

Cassandra Rivera has been clean of heroine for six years now.

“Prenatal with my twin," Rivera said. "My whole family has addiction running through their veins.”

Jeff Williams has been clean of cocaine and alcohol for four years.

“It’s pretty incredible each day how much of a struggle it’s been, and each day how gratifying it is to be where I am now.” Williams said.

Both are subjects in Chasing Nirvana Clean, a photojournalism series on addiction and recovery.

“There’s different colors. Old, young, new in recovery, old in recovery," Rivera said. "And it’s truly amazing to have someone finally captivate it in the six years I’ve been in recovery.”

Simone Ochrym started the project after losing her own son to addiction in 2016.

“When you have a child struggling with addiction, it’s a fight to the last breath. But when you come through the other side, it’s a fight to help others," Ochrym said. "I don’t want any parent going through what my husband and I had to go through, or a family. And I want to give people hope.”

It premieres at the Flower City Art Center on Monroe Avenue next month.

“What I’m looking for is the how and why people enter recovery, and stay in recovery for the long-term.” Ochrym said.

Simone wants the project to not just educate about recovery, but also break the stigma surrounding addiction.

“These are very valuable people in our community, and we should embrace them," Ochrym said. "Even though they’re struggling with addiction, it’s time for us to start rebranding them and saying they have a chronic disease, and bring them into recovery.”

It's a hope the participants share.

“My hope for Simone and myself is more people come out because of this and want to share their story so we can break down the stigma and share that these are everyday people, these are community members, they are assets, like Simone was saying, to the community.” Williams said.

The project will be open to the public September 7 through October 20.

 

Opioid 'recovery first aid' kits unveiled to county officials

Opioid 'recovery first aid' kits unveiled to county officials

Opioid ‘recovery first aid’ kits unveiled to county officials

By BRETT DAHLBERG  AUG 14, 2018

Local support groups working with people addicted to opioids distributed what they were calling “recovery first aid” kits to government officials Tuesday.

The kits contained contact information for a half-dozen groups that provide services ranging from overdose treatment to grief counseling. David Attridge, executive director of Gates to Recovery, unveiled the kits and presented them to Monroe County legislators at their August meeting.

Information about local addiction-services organizations will be included in "recovery first aid" kits distributed to county officials and public places like churches and emergency rooms.

In an interview with WXXI before the meeting, Gates police Chief James VanBrederode described the harrowing situation that led him and Attridge to compile the kits: a young woman who overdosed twice in one day.

“We had a girl overdose at 10:00 at night,” VanBrederode said. “And in her purse were discharge papers from a local hospital, timestamped at 3:00 p.m. Nowhere in her purse did we find any referral references.”

“There’s so many families out there that aren’t aware of how much help, truly, there is—how many organizations and groups and meetings—pertaining to mental health and substance use disorders,” said Becky Baker, the executive director of S.O.A.R.S., Substance Overdose Awareness Recovery Services.

And Attridge said even government officials are sometimes unaware of the resources available for their constituents who are struggling with addiction. “Monroe County is rich in resources,” Attridge said, “but unless they’ve been through the process, they don’t know what’s out there.”

Baker agreed. “I can help people,” she said. “But they have to know to call me.”

Baker’s contact information and phone numbers for Huther Doyle, the C.O.R.E Center, Trillium Health, ROCovery Fitness, and Gates to Recovery are in the kits, which VanBrederode said will be distributed to emergency rooms, churches, and other public places around the county.

Man idicted for attempting to hid drugs after girlfriend's OD in Gates

Man idicted for attempting to hid drugs after girlfriend's OD in Gates

Man indicted for attempting to hide drugs after girlfriend's OD in Gates

Prosecutors said Baker died of a heroin overdose in the Motel 6 in Gates. After her death, Pernesky is accused of wrapping her body in sheets, hiding drugs that were still in the room and leaving her body in the room. Housekeeping workers found her body. His attorney takes issue with police reports he was trying to flee.

RELATED: Judge reverses course, orders man accused in Gates fatal OD held without bail

Police were looking for him for 78 days.

Pernesky is a three-time felon who escaped once from a prison and once from a psychiatric facility - both in Colorado. He last served time for his role in a major auto theft ring in Denver. Eight people were arrested in a 103-count indictment and charged with stealing $578,000 - money that largely went to methamphetamine for those involved.

Pernesky is currently being held without bail in the Monroe County Jail.

Treating addiction in the ER: One doctor's success against the heroin epidemic

 

Treating addiction in the ER: One doctor's success against the heroin epidemic

by Jane Flasch 

Wednesday, August 15th 2018

Buffalo, N.Y. (WHAM) - People addicted to opioids - upwards of ten every day - crowd into the Erie County Medical Center. As an emergency room doctor, Josh Lynch is on the front lines.

"It was happening over and over again," Dr. Lynch said. We were seeing the same people either overdose or come back to the ER."

Many emergency rooms administer Narcan, stabilize the health emergency, then send patients home. Dr. Lynch calls it a missed opportunity.

"We start them on this medicine and get them feeling better within 30 minutes, then what? Where do they go?," Lynch asked.

About a year and a half ago, with a surge in heroin and opioid use, he decided to shift the thinking.

When someone with chest pains goes to the ER, there is a checklist of what doctors will do immediately. Even if someone is not admitted, there is a plan for follow-up care. What if this model were applied to those addicted to heroin? Could ERs also be a place for treatment to begin?

"The fact that we would treat [addicted people] differently is unacceptable anymore," said Dr. Lynch, noting that opioid use affects people across all of society.

The first step: Doctors at 13 hospitals in Erie County have been specially trained to prescribe Buprenorphine - a drug known as Suboxone. It stops cravings and eases withdrawal, but it is also an opioid, so physicians must receive eight hours of education before they're allowed to use it for addiction. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants require 24 hours of training.

Those who are ready for addiction intervention move on to step two. Dr. Lynch convinced treatment clinics across western New York to dedicate treatment slots every week specifically to ER patients so they don't go on a waiting list. It started out small with one treatment center. It's grown to a pool of 60 openings per week.

Patients learn their options and make a first and second choice. The scheduling of appointments is handled immediately by Mercy Flight dispatchers - even if it's 2 a.m. They're already on the job - waiting for emergencies - and available 24/7.

"Most of the patients that we're referring get into their first choice clinic within 48 hours of their ER visit," said Dr. Lynch.

During that gap, counselors who've overcome their own addictions step in. "We try to hammer down, 'What are you going to do when you leave here? Where, specifically, are you going to go?' Then provide someone to virtually hold the person's hand until they get to the appointment," said Dr. Lynch.

"An immediate assessment is done. Peer counseling is done. It's a whole different experience," said Gates Police Chief James Van Brederode.

Three times in a two week period, Van Brederode has driven addicts who needed help to Erie County when he could not find them placement in Monroe County. He said the contrast between counties is significant.

"They have incorporated within the ER this whole idea of the addiction problem. I don't see that in any of our ERs," said Van Brederode.

A spokesperson with Monroe County tells 13WHAM News the Monroe County Health Director has reached out to officials in Erie County to learn more about the program with plans to "customize" something similar here.

Dr. Lynch says for the program to work treatment centers have to make room and make a commitment to ER patients with treatment slots available every week. It's taken about a year and a half for Erie County's program to grow to 13 hospitals and 25 treatment centers.

"Everybody kind of works together and people are noticing and taking away that this is actually working," said Dr. Lynch.

Gates eyes vacant facility; will pitch opioid treatment idea to NY state

Gates eyes vacant facility; will pitch opioid treatment idea to NY state

 

Gates, N.Y. - Monday morning, 6 a.m.: Police are called to a home for the fatal overdose of a 46-year-old man. It's how the week began for Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode.

"This is a crisis. It's not going to go away. So as a leader, you have to do something to fix this," he told 13WHAM's Jane Flasch.

On this same Monday, David Attridge struggled to find treatment beds for four addicts ready to get clean. "It's hard right now to keep them in that mode - that, 'Okay I'm ready,' because the drugs keep calling and calling," he said.

So this counselor, police chief and town supervisor are matchmaking. They're seeking out empty space with potential and laying it at the feet of New York State and those who run addiction programs locally. On Monday, they toured a bricked building on Barberry Terrace in the City of Rochester that has long been used as a licensed medical facility. Pentecostal Miracle Deliverance Center Church owns the building and wants to return it to its roots.

To combat the opioid crisis, the state agency Oasis, which approves and oversees detox programs, has given hospitals a waiver to turn unused beds into detox and treatment space rather than forcing communities to wait for new facilities to be built or opened. "Gates to Recovery" wants this same waver for the building on Barberry Terrace and perhaps another facility licensed for adult care in Shortsville, Ontario County. They will pitch the plan to officials from Oasis who will be in Rochester later this week.

The Shortsville facility has space for 23 beds. The Rochester facility is already certified by the city for 26 beds but would need state approval. "We're in the middle of a war right now. We need a M.A.S.H. (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) Unit set up. Not to wait 18 months for a new building," said Chief VanBrederode. "Do you know how many people are going to die in Monroe County in the next 18 months?"

More than 800 people have died of opioid overdoses in Monroe County in the last four years

Pedaling to addiction recovery: 10 Rochester riders on a trek of determination

August 14, patti singer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Depression and alcohol abuse cost Kim King her job and nearly her life. 

Now, she said she’s reclaiming the person she used to be. As part of her recovery, she’ll get on a bicycle Wednesday in Buffalo and spend five days pedaling nearly 400 miles to Albany.

“It’s going to be so hard,” said the 53-year-old Gates woman. “But I’m not afraid to do it. Before, with all the problems I was having, I was afraid of them. I was ignoring them. Now I’m back where I want to face things head on, not run away from them.”

King is part of a 10-person team organized by Exercise Express and ROCovery Fitness to bike to the 2018 New York State Recovery Conference.  The event runs Sunday through Tuesday and is hosted by Friends of Recovery-NY, a statewide non-profit dedicated to advancing addiction recovery. The cyclists are scheduled to arrive Sunday, attend sessions on Monday and then return to Rochester by vehicle.

Since May, King and her teammates have been taking training rides of up to 70 miles to get ready for the journey called the 2018 Albany Recovery Ride.

“It’s to show people you can go through things and you can overcome them,” she said. “You’re not alone. That’s the biggest thing with our group. We have so much support. Someone is having a bad day, you can help them through it. … That’s kind of how we’ll do it on this trip. We all have to help each other make it that far.”

Losses led to depression

Kim King hopes her ride to Albany brings awareness to the needs of people in recovery. 

King said she served as an Army mechanic in Panama in from 1989 to 1991 and later was in the National Guard. She said she was told she had post-traumatic stress disorder but didn’t believe the diagnosis.

She said years of losses — deaths of people closest to her and financial and health troubles — led to depression that she treated with alcohol.

“I was not getting any help,” she said. “I let things build up. … Finally, everything hit a head. I was suicidal.”

After a hospital stay last year, she started community-based programs with Samaritan Center for Excellence, which works with woman and families affected by substance abuse or incarceration. Samaritan Center is part of ROC Hub, a consortium of and wellness businesses and nonprofits on South Plymouth Avenue. So is Exercise Express, where she took some classes.

“She worked out all the time,” said owner Karen Rogers. “I saw how strong she was getting.”

Rogers, who has family members with histories of substance abuse, told King that she was helping set up a bike ride to Albany to boost awareness about recovery.

“She said, ‘Do you think I can do it?' I said, ‘I know you can do it.’”

'People are determined'

The recovery conference holds workshops on how recovery affects communities and individuals, and topics include health, housing, employment, and family and peer support. Addiction topics aren’t limited to alcohol or opiates. One workshop is geared to gambling, food and sex addictions.

Rochester-area experts are scheduled to be presenters or have information tables. 

To Rogers’ knowledge, her Rochester contingent is the only one arriving on two wheels.

“We want to show our community and all the communities we’re going through that people are in recovery, people are determined,” Rogers said. “We will let people know that we won’t let (addiction) stop us. We’ll keep fighting, we’ll keep pushing, we’ll keep encouraging each other and that’s what this is all about.”

This is the second time a Rochester contingent has biked to the conference. Rogers represented Exercise Express on last year's ride with four people from ROCovery Fitness. This year, the core group is doubled, with seven from Exercise Express and three from ROCovery Fitness, scheduled to participate. The organizations accepted donations to support the riders.

She said the entourage will pick up riders along the route, which starts at Tow Path Park in Buffalo.

“We added Buffalo because they have a large recovery community and we have a great relationship with them,” Rogers said.

After biking Wednesday from Buffalo to Rochester, the group will start Thursday morning with a 7 a.m. community breakfast at ROCovery Fitness, 1035 Dewey Ave., according to  a news release from ROCovery Fitness co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Yana Khashper. At 8 a.m., the riders will be escorted by Rochester Police Department officers to Exercise Express to begin the next leg.

The bicyclists can expect a hero's welcome when they reach the conference.

Stephanie Campbell, executive director of Friends of Recovery — New York ,said a contingent would greet the riders with signs, cheers and confetti.

She said the ride represents what is happening in the recovery movement. "We're able to connect with a community, we're able to do something that is meaningful, that has purpose, and that really is about beind of service and supporting others."

Positive thinker 

Kim King said that biking to Albany will be hard, but she and the other riders will support each other. In biking, like in recovery, "you can't give up," she said. (Photo: Olivia Lopez, Olivia Lopez/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

The itinerary has the bicyclists riding at a clip of 12 to 15 mph and covering more than 90 miles each of the first two days, followed by days of slightly more 70, 67 and 49 miles each. The route mostly is on the Erie Canal path. Support vehicles will meet the riders at checkpoints.

"When you're at the bottom, sometimes you don't see a way back up," King said. "Showing we can do this, we have the endurance to do this, gives them hope that they can pick up their lives and start something, whether it's exercise, or the arts or different things to get them out of their depression."

King said she was getting nervous waiting for the ride to start.

“It’s going to be challenge,” she said, then gave herself a pep talk.

 “You’ve got to think positive. You can’t give up.”

PSINGER@Gannett.com