U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was in Albany Monday to promote new legislation intended to help families struggling with addiction.
Gillibrand says The Family Support Services for Addiction Act would allocate $25 million to help nonprofit organizations, like the The Addictions Care Center of Albany, provide support services to families of people seeking treatment.
Gillibrand says more than 3,000 people in New York state died from an opioid overdose in 2017. The Democrat says it’s important to get families involved in treatment because studies show people are more likely to stay in treatment and recover.
“They need referrals to credible and helpful treatment providers,” Gillibrand says. “They need support groups.”
The Addictions Care Center of Albany administers the Family Support Navigator program, which focuses on family issues resulting from addiction.
Kelly Fahrenkopf is the group’s Clinical Director of Residential Services. She says patients often end up back home for recovery, which is why family education is so important, but the Albany facility also offers on-campus treatment.
“We have it all under one roof for them,” Fahrenkopf says. “So we are able to have that enforcement through both sides. We have them right across the street. So we’re here, they’re in another building. So if families come in, they’re able to connect with us immediately to help try to get the client into any sort of help that’s needed.”
Fahrenkopf says the current program lacks the funds to keep families involved.
“We struggle with having families get the resources,” Fahrenkopf says. “So the more money that’s out there to help them so they can get that – to push it forward for them as needed. We struggle often times with families – we lose connections with families based off the fact that we lose the client. And we really want to help that – to keep that unity together - because we know that addiction affects the whole family, not just the client themselves.”
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says the Addictions Care Center of Albany has made his job easier. Apple says last year there were roughly 200 overdoses in the county, many of them repeat incidents. Apple says departments like his know they can’t arrest their way out of the addiction crisis.
“We shopped all over the place when we were losing people daily to overdoses,” Apple says. “We shopped all over. ‘We need help from somebody out there,’ we didn’t know what we were doing – we’re a police officer organization – law enforcement. All we knew at that point was, ‘Let’s try to arrest our way out of it,’ right? Just put them in jail, put them in jail. We were fortunate enough to start a treatment center with Addictions Care Center and they became our partner because they didn’t want to know how they were going to get paid. I’ll never forget Keith saying, ‘Let’s save some lives and we’ll figure out how to get paid later.’”
The proposed funding would be used for peer support groups, training for family members, education on substance use disorder for schools, medical information, and referrals.
The bill is cosponsored by Republican U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, but Senator Gillibrand says this is only the beginning.
“It’s not nearly enough,” Gillibrand says. “It’s literally a drop in the bucket. But it’s a good start and it’s bipartisan so we have the opportunity, hopefully, to pass the bill this year.”
Those in need of addiction treatment or family support services can visit TheACCA.net.