SCHENECTADY — A new drug treatment center in Hamilton Hill is providing outpatient services to recovering addicts.
Open since November, New Choices Recovery Center held a formal launch event at its new location at 728 State St. on Wednesday.
The gleaming outpatient facility, which sits on a site previously owned by Mohawk Auto Center, will provide day services to between 150 and 200 people daily.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS
State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said the center is part of the state's ongoing effort to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction and bring the disease out of the shadows.
“People shouldn’t be ashamed that they have an addiction,” she said. “They should be able to talk about that so we can help and assist.”
Detoxification is only an early step in recovery.
New Choices does not provide that service, but rather the vital “wraparound” services to ensure those in recovery will have the necessary tools they need to live sober lives, including counseling, access to educational programming, nutrition and wellness classes and ongoing case coordination, as well as medication-assisted treatment.
Roughly 75 percent of patients have mental health issues, said New Choices Executive Director Stuart Rosenblatt, who is also a licensed psychiatrist.
The center has a full-time staff of 85 to 90 people, and approximately 30 part-time employees.
Services like those provided by New Choices didn’t exist a decade ago, said González-Sánchez. She said the center should be replicated across the state.
“I think what you’re seeing is a real big shift in the attitude towards addiction and how we should treat addiction,” she said.
Treatment is not the same for everyone, she said, and recovering addicts have different needs that must be individually tailored, whether it's embracing a family-centered model or classes integrated with life skills training.
Failure to recognize the multi-faceted treatment options means communities will not be successful in combating the epidemic which continues to be entrenched across the state and nation, she said.
“Medication is not just handing a pill to somebody,” González-Sánchez said. “You need that counseling.”
New Choices' former location, the Masonic Lodge at Erie Boulevard and State Street in downtown Schenectady, proved to be unsuitable for the nonprofit’s needs. Two floors were entirely unusable, Rosenblatt said.
Funding for the $6.5 million facility was provided primarily through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
Rosenblatt said New Choices had eyed relocation for at least a decade. Officials found the new site as desirable due to its central location, which is close to public transportation utilized by clients.
The non-profit also operates four community residences in the area.
Highbridge Development constructed the 22,500-square-foot building, and has said it will redevelop the former location.
Laura Combs, assistant executive director at New Choices, said the bright and airy space has also allowed for expanded programming and services, including recreational activities, outside training sessions, group therapy — even meditation in a specialized room.
Clients, she said, have come to appreciate the new space once they personalized the location with homemade art and other decorations.
The message New Choices seeks to impart upon their arrival, she said, is “we value you and we’re providing this place for your recovery.”
Rosenblatt said the new center is just one of several positive developments offered by New Choices.
The group is also broadening use of telemedicine. The center’s mobile Center of Treatment Innovation Project, known as COTI, deploys resources and outreach teams to patients in rural and underserved areas, including Saratoga and Montgomery counties.
“It’s like a hospital on wheels,” Rosenblatt said.
The formal ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, which also doubled as New Choices’ 50th anniversary celebration, drew scores of state and local dignitaries, as well as representatives of federal officials.
Schenectady City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said the center is not only a valuable tool in combating addiction, but also has the opportunity to create new community leaders in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood.
And Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, said COTI is increasingly beneficial because it covers rural residents who may otherwise go without treatment.
“People need services but can’t get to them readily,” Walsh said. “Bringing the services right to the people, I think, is critical."