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Amsterdam 'clubhouse' to help fight scourge of heroin

Amsterdam 'clubhouse' to help fight scourge of heroin

This spring, one of seven new “clubhouses” across the state for young people recovering from addicti

This spring, one of seven new “clubhouses” across the state for young people recovering from addiction is set to open in Amsterdam, part of a $1.6 million program announced Thursday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The program aims to open a clubhouse — a place where young people in recovery can find sober support, recreation and camaraderie — in seven regions around the state, with the Amsterdam facility servicing the Mohawk Valley and North Country.

Other facilities are planned for Central New York, the Mid-Hudson region, the Finger Lakes region, Western New York, New York City and Long Island.

“I think these will be groundbreaking programs in New York state,” said Ann Rhodes, executive director of Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Prevention Council, which was awarded $250,000 to create and operate the clubhouse.

“We are now experiencing an opioid epidemic,” she said. “And what we’re seeing is that it very often is hitting the young people, 25 and under.”

The clubhouses will not be treatment centers, she said. They will be more like community centers, with peer-driven activities and services for young people working to stay sober.

According to information from the governor’s office, the centers will help young people develop social skills that promote long-term recovery and a healthy lifestyle. Services will include things like homework help and tutoring, college and job preparation, community service opportunities, and sports and fitness activities.

“You can imagine for people who are young and in recovery from the disease of addiction, they don’t have a lot of sober peers, don’t have a lot of sober places to go to,” Rhodes said. “They feel very isolated, often.”

She said most of the activities will be developed based on the interests of the young people involved in the program. The clubhouse will have designated after-school hours for younger visitors — who may be at risk for addiction, not necessarily in recovery — and later hours for those over the age of 18, she said.

State Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, co-chairman of the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, called supporting recovery and preventing relapses “a critical piece of addressing the heroin epidemic.”

The clubhouse, he said, “will serve as an important resource for the city of Amsterdam, and the entire Mohawk Valley, to help keep our young people on the road to recovery.”

Rhodes said Amsterdam was chosen as a central location and large population area, but the clubhouse will be open to the entire region.

The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, which administered the grant, has set an opening target of April 1, Rhodes said. That office will also be approving the plans for the clubhouses.

Rhodes and others at the HFM Prevention Council will now begin looking for a space in Amsterdam, hiring staff, recruiting volunteers, and building partnerships with other community organizations, she said.

The program is one of several launched by the governor’s office since 2014 to combat the state’s heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic, including increased capacity for addiction treatment, insurance reform, expanded Naloxone training, and broad public awareness efforts.

Rhodes, who is also a member of Friends of Recovery New York, said that organization would like to eventually see this kind of clubhouse in every county in the state.

“It is a very new and a very exciting idea,” she said. “I think it’s going to save lives.”

Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 723-0811, [email protected] or @kyleradams on Twitter.

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