Rochester is one of 15 communities across the country chosen for a grassroots campaign to change the public response to the addiction crisis. It is a campaign that Buffalo-area communities may look to for answers to its own addiction challenges.
"The whole 'once an addict, always an addict' thing is not true,” said 21-year old Carlee Holsizer. “Addicts need treatment. Addicts need a safe place to go and a place where they feel comfortable enough. Addicts need society to be on their side."
Holsizer was addicted to alcohol and drugs when she attended high school in Spencerport.
As a volunteer now working with other individuals in recovery, she filed an application to bring the national nonprofit Facing Addiction to Rochester to work with grassroots organizations, elected officials, and law enforcement.
"Pretty much what they're going to be doing is coming in and seeing what we have in place already as far as recovery goes, and what programs are needed in order to make Rochester a city where recovery is welcome and make programs and organizations sustainable."
Rochester city council member Molly Clifford wrote a letter of support for the application to the initiative. She says Rochester's selection from over 50 communities across the country shows that the community has great potential with the providers and partnership agencies that are already serving people with addiction.
"We have a lot of good brains around this, including people who are in recovery themselves. I think what it shows that this organization was willing to make an investment, saying 'Yes, you're doing a great job; we want to help you take it to the next level and try and help even more people.' "
Clifford, who represents Northwest Rochester, says she talks every day to family and community members who know someone who is battling addiction.
"It is easier for people who have means to get access to treatment, and it's maybe a little easier for them to stay clean. We want to make sure that we're serving people who may not have that income level."
Holsizer, who volunteers for the group RecoveryNowNY, is part of a team working to bring a recovery high school to Rochester. The biggest barrier, she said, is the ‘us versus them’ attitude of people think there is no help for addicts and who don’t recognize that addiction is a public health problem.
"We all know what addiction looks like, and it's time that the public and society sees what recovery looks like."
Facing Addiction said in a release that it will work with political and community leaders in Rochester to develop an overall strategy to shift toward a public, health-centered response to those impacted by addiction. The effort will also include efforts to:
- Secure increases in localized funding to adequately address the addiction crisis
- Train advocates on proper techniques to reform their community's response
- Provide suggestions to increase media coverage to the problem of addiction