The number of recovery centers in New York has grown significantly in recent years, and they are making a huge difference in the lives of those struggling with substance use disorders, according to a high-level official of the state’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services.
Speaking at Wednesday’s Overdose Awareness Day at Austin Park in Batavia, Robert Kent, chief counsel for OASAS, said the Batavia area will be well served by the opening of the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse’s recovery recreation center at the former Bohn’s Restaurant building on Clinton Street Road.
The Overdose Awareness Day event brought about 150 people together from Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming and Monroe counties in an effort to raise awareness and share information about substance use and options for those in recovery. About 20 agencies, including law enforcement, took part in the three-and-a-half-hour program.
“We know there’s value (in recovery centers) … we’re starting to see things go in the right direction, but we realized we’re nowhere near where we need to be,” Kent said. “The recovery center here (in Batavia will flourish as) the community connects with the people who need support.”
Kent, who has worked for OASAS since 2007, said there were only three such centers in the state prior to 2015 – in Brooklyn, Rochester and Delaware County.
“When the epidemic took off, we went on our own and added another dozen – and they work,” he said. “We’ll have around 30 by the end of 2019. Ultimately, they become more like community centers instead of recovery centers.”
Carlee Hulsizer, youth recovery program specialist with Youth Voices Matter New York, echoed Kent’s sentiments.
“We definitely need more recovery support,” she said. “Prevention, treatment and recovery … we need more (resources) to sustain them.”
Overdose Awareness Day organizers said that collaboration is the key to lifting people out of the cycle of substance use, treatment and relapse.
“We have three communities coming together to support those in recovery,” said event promoter Allison Parry-Gurak, who is project coordinator of the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force. “Because of this, we now have 400 members (of the task force) across the three counties.”
GCASA Executive Director John Bennett said he was “so proud of all the recovery warriors out here and I know we’re making a difference in our community right now.”
Bennett reported that GCASA is set to take ownership of the former restaurant next week and hopes that it will be open by Dec. 1.
“Maybe even by Thanksgiving so we can have Thanksgiving dinner,” he said. “That would be a great way to kick it off.”
The event drew many volunteers – most of them dressed in purple T-shirts printed with the hashtag # End Overdose. Their work as peers (Certified Recovery Peer Advocates) did not go unnoticed by several speakers, who thanked them for their commitment to standing up alongside those in recovery.
“Peers are the bomb,” said Lori Drescher of the Rochester-based Recovery Coach University. “These recovery coaches are trained and have certification, and are helping people find their way and keeping others in their recovery.”
Drescher then acknowledged all of the peers in the crowd and asked them to come up front where she was speaking.
Among the agencies represented at the event were the YWCA of Genesee County, Wyoming County Mental Health Department, Rochester Regional Health, Genesee County Health Department, Villa of Hope, Missing Angels, (Town of) Gates to Recovery, Horizon, Orleans Recovery, GCASA, The Bridge, VA WNY Health Care, Spectrum Health & Human Services, New York State Police, Gates Police Department, City of Batavia Police Department and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.
Live music was provided by the band, Groove.
Disclosure: Story by Mike Pettinella, GCASA publicist.
Photos – from top: Scott Davis, left, and Larry Catoe Jr., both in recovery, let attendees of Wednesday’s Overdose Awareness Day know where to begin their quest for information about treatment and recovery; Robert Kent of OASAS spends a moment in the shade with Julie Gutowski, left, and Holli Gass of Spectrum; Gina Henry, GCASA prevention educator, treats the children at the kids’ booth; Lori Drescher of Recovery Coach University recognizes the recovery peers.