ALBANY — State funding to the tune of $10 million is available to create more addiction treatment centers across New York, something the Twin Counties lack, according to local officials.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday the money is meant to develop up to 40 new withdrawal and stabilization or residential treatment beds across the state, services that are needed in Columbia and Greene counties, said Beth Schuster, executive director of local nonprofit Twin County Recovery Services Inc.
“Yes, we need both of them,” Schuster said.
Medically supervised withdrawal and stabilization programs are short-term. They offer medical assessment, information about recovery support, family treatment, clinical services and medication to manage withdrawal symptoms. The programs help connect to long-term treatment programs such as residential treatment centers that provide services including counseling, training and recreational programs.
Schuster and other local officials say building such facilities is easier said than done. Twin County Recovery Services has been searching a long time for a location to build this type of facility, Schuster said.
“Finding a place to put that facility is difficult. I’ve been looking for five years,” Schuster said. “The state wants us to find property that has municipal sewer and water, which means in a city or town. Finding two acres in a city or town isn’t easy, especially when people don’t want residences with recovering substance abusers anywhere near them.”
The nonprofit has faced other challenges to building residential treatment centers in the area including the long process to get state approval.
“The purchase takes so long that we lose the property to others who can move more quickly,” Schuster said. “This has happened to us several times in both Greene and Columbia counties.”
Columbia County identified these treatment facilities as one of the county’s key elements in its heroin and opioid epidemic response plan.
“We would definitely be interested in something like this, the thing is to find a location,” Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said. “We will continue to work on this. Hopefully, maybe the advent of this funding will help us find a location.”
Columbia County recorded two opioid overdose deaths as of August 2018, according to the most recent available data from the state Department of Health published in October.
“Every county has a need for these facilities,” said Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden. “We have to deal with this. This kind of facility could be the salvation someone could be looking for.”
Greene County recorded four opioid overdose deaths — a rate of 8.4 deaths per 100,000, compared to the rate statewide of 2.8 deaths per 100,000.
“Addiction is a scourge on our society that has devastated communities and families across the entire state,” Cuomo said. “These expanded services demonstrate our ongoing commitment to support all New Yorkers who are looking to get on the road to recovery and build on our nation-leading efforts to end this epidemic once and for all.”
The funding was included in the 2018-19 state budget that passed in April and was something state Sen. George Amedore, R-46, pushed for, calling treatment one of the multiple prongs to combating the opioid crisis.
“This funding is meant to go to places that do not have any treatment centers, and Greene County is one of them,” Amedore said. “So that people do not have to drive hours away from home to get the treatment they need.”
Amedore acknowledged the frustration that comes with trying to find a location for new treatment facilities and said local governments need to better educate the public not to fear having these facilities next door.
“If local town officials are serious about helping solve this crisis, they have to be looking at this as a solution,” Amedore said. “By educating the public that treatment centers are not drug dens. These are highly educated licensed professionals. They are a healthy thing and what we need to tackle this problem.”
Amedore called on the governor to make the funding not only available to nonprofit organizations but for profit-making organizations as well.
“There are successful for-profit programs out there and the treatment, care and services they provide are very effective,” Amedore said. “Sometimes for-profit organizations are more accountable because they are run like a business. If something goes wrong with a nonprofit they seek more funds as a solution. This funding should be available to any licensed service provider with a proven track record and that wants to invest in local treatment.”