A frank discussion on heroin and opioid addiction was held in Washington County Wedneday night. The forum, moderated by District Attorney Tony Jordan, focused not only on the prevalence of opioid addiction in the Washington, Saratoga, and Warren County regions, but also moving firsthand accounts.
The community forum Wednesday night in Hudson Falls was held directly after a Narcan training session. The drug is administered to reverse a heroin or opioid overdose.
The Hometown vs. Heroin and Addiction forum and was moderated by Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan.
“This challenge is…knows no bounds. I think the statistics show and support that it is a suburban, rural epidemic,” said Jordan.
Jordan said that in recent years, Washington County and the region have seen a rise in cases involving fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. He said the drug is often pressed into pills resembling prescription painkillers but can be many times more potent and lethal.
As law enforcement does its work, Jordan said it’s important for individuals to know about the realities of the situation — and keep an open dialogue about an epidemic that does not discriminate.
“It’s not going to get any better unless until these discussions become mainstream and part of the public conscience everywhere,” said Jordan.
Karine Montanye, a Lake George mother, told the story of her family’s struggle with addiction. Montanye lost her son to opioid addiction. She discussed how she had initially failed to recognize new behaviors in her son, like drinking and a change in friends, as an early sign of drug use.
“I think the important thing is getting out there, talking to people that are getting through it, not allowing yourself to get isolated, because then the only story you’re hearing is the story your kids are telling you and that’s not…that’s the story they want you to hear. And so it doesn’t allow perhaps to take the actions that you should be taking,” said Montanye.
Montanye’s daughter, Ashley Bellevue, also urged family members to have conversations about addiction, mental health issues, and thoughts of suicide.
In addition to losing her brother, Bellevue’s older sister also battled addiction. Bellevue said her family’s experiences led her to find answers. She now works as an intake coordinator at Baywood Center, an addiction treatment center.
“I had to find some way to try and deal with this addiction that was around me and for me it was finding education and learning about. Learning about my personal experiences and then being able to identify that and help others because no other family deserves…should have to go through what we’ve been through. And if I can prevent one more family member from not feeling my pain, then I’m going to,” said Bellevue.
The longest story of the night came from Ashley Livingston, a person in recovery. Now 29, Livingston elicited tears and applause from the audience as she described her graduation from painkillers to heroin, multiple stints in jail, detox, relapse and recovery.
She’s been sober for four years and now works as a recovery advocate. She explained why she shares her story as often as she can.
“It’s my experience, strength, and hope. So that’s what I like to share. And the experience, it can take a while, because it doesn’t…I also want people to know that just because somebody falls down doesn’t mean they won’t get back up and fight just as hard. Because I did and I will continue to fight,” said Livingston.