JAMESTOWN – The drug addiction crisis in Chautauqua County has yet to see a decline.
That’s according to Rick Huber, who currently serves as CEO of the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County. Starting in 2017, he’ll transition over to the position of Director of New Program Development.
Huber was a guest on WRFA’s Community Matters program on Dec. 22 and provided an update on the effort to help those dealing with addition. Huber said currently there are about 425 people a week who are coming to the Mental Health Association’s office on Water St.. in Jamestown, seeking peer support from others who’ve also battled addiction.
“They’ve been there, they’ve come out the other side, they’re doing extremely well, and they’re helping new people work their way through it,” Huber said. “Right now we only have eight recovery coaches, but each one is handling about 53 people. The state average, they say, should be between 20 and 25.”
Huber also said that while heroin and opioids continue to be a major problem, 2016 also saw a sharp increase in the number of residents who are addicted to methamphetamine, which has also been confirmed by Child Protective Services.
“Meeting with Child Protective Services, they’re seeing an increase in their caseload as well,” Huber said. “And not only an increase, but the situations are even worse. I’ve been told they have to warn their people because in some of the houses they go in, meth is being produced and they don’t even know it. So their in danger every day.”
Huber also said that unlike heroin, methamphetamine addiction has its own challenges, which include a longer recovery period.
“Our recovery coaches are really well trained and they understand all of it, including the different stages they’re going through because of areas of the brain that opioid affects and meth affects, it takes well over a year for heroin addiction to go through all the stages of recovery, but it takes almost two years for a meth addict,” Huber said.
Huber estimates that there are well over 4,000 people in Chautauqua County who are dealing with addiction. However, there currently are no long-term rehab services in the county. In fact, WCA hospital offers a 28-day detox and rehab service for residents, but it is limited to only helping 13 people at a time. Huber said he has been working without mental health agencies across the state to try and identify a better way to help the thousands who are dealing with addiction.
“I’d like to see a minimum of a six-month residential place,” Huber said. “I’d like to see transitional housing for mothers and children especially, but really for anyone, where they can work at the same time so they can feel safe. Otherwise they’ll go back to the same areas, the dealers are still calling them and showing up at their door. It’s hard to say ‘no’ – especially when you go back to a family and other family members are also using.”
Huber has proposed establishing a long-term recovery program in Jamestown that includes housing as well as a job. Specifically, his program would involve a commercial laundry service for area healthcare and medical facilities, considering that one currently doesn’t operate in the immediate Jamestown area. He said that project is currently seeking funding to move forward, and he’s hoping to see more support in 2017.
The Mental Health Association in Chautauqua county provides peer-to-peer support for residents dealing with drug addiction. The office is located at 21 Water Street in Jamestown and the number is (716) 661-9044.
Our conversation with Huber will replay on Christmas Day during the noon hour.
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