Capital Region

Editorial: Families of addicts get an advocate

Rensselaer County to hire liaison to help families, opioid addicts get services
Fentanyl pills seized in Ohio.
Fentanyl pills seized in Ohio.

To combat the opioid crisis, many communities are stepping up law enforcement efforts to catch the suppliers who are putting this poison on the streets.

Those involved in addiction treatment are seeking ways to help get users off the drugs, including such controversial measures as  centers where addicts can inject themselves with the drugs and get help at the same time.

Governments are suing opioid manufacturers and doctors for over-prescribing prescription opioids, to which many users first become addicted.

The problem of opioid abuse has grown exponentially in the last decade. In 2016, more than 64,000 Americans died from overdoses, compared to 53,000 in 2015 and 16,000 in 2010. In 1999, the number was 4,000. Over 500,000 people could die from the epidemic over the next 10 years.

That’s how bad this is. And that doesn’t factor in the millions of people who survive overdoses but continue deal with addiction, often for years.

But the opioid problem isn’t limited to sellers, users and cops. Families of addicts are often devastated because of parents, children and extended family members becoming addicted to the drugs.

Some children of addicts have to take on adult responsibilities, including caring for their parents and siblings when parents abuse.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, other family members can experience guilt, abandonment, fear, anger, concern and frustration when someone close to them has an addiction.

These families are as much victims of this epidemic as those who suffer and die from addiction.

An encouraging new initiative put forth by Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin will attempt address those families’ issues.

McLaughlin has proposed creating a county position of opioid recovery coordinator, which will deal with the families of addicts and help the addicts themselves get the help they need to deal with their problems.

The coordinator will act as a liaison between government and families and addicted family members by helping those affected gain access to addiction treatment, mental and physical health services and recovery specialists.

Often, the scariest thing for people in these situations is not knowing where to turn. This coordinator position will help ease that burden.

The $30,000 part-time position is a bargain for county taxpayers, creatively funded in part with proceeds from forfeiture funds funds generated by the sale of items seized from convicted criminals.

When it really gets into this problem and really assesses the extend of the family issues, the county might soon find the need to make the position full-time.

Officials in other counties should look carefully at how Rensselaer County administers the position and how successful it is in meeting the needs of the people it’s designed to help. Perhaps they then might want to consider a similar position or consider sharing coordinators with neighboring counties.

This new position could be a vital life-line for families affected by opioid addiction.

Let’s hope those in need take advantage of it.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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