Heroin recovery center chief: 'We're just scratching the surface'

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Recovery Community Recovery Center Director Amanda Pinkham and Laina Reavis of the SOS Recovery Community Organization, inset, are two of the faces in the epic fight aainst addiction in Rochester. (Lebanon Voice file photos)

ROCHESTER - During a month that saw news reports releasing data that shows drug overdoses as the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, it should probably be no surprise that overdose deaths in Rochester have also spiked almost 30 percent for the period from January to May this year as compared to last.

One person at the center of the recovery effort here in Rochester thinks people may have underestimated the grip heroin and its more virulent synthetic opioid counterparts have on the community and the nation.

"There has turned out to be a bigger need in Rochester than people ever realized," said Amanda Pinkham of the Rochester Community Recovery Center. "We're just scratching the surface."

Pinkham opened the center in October with the help of Frisbie Memorial Hospital. She has two full-time coaches and two volunteer coaches who devote their time to peer counseling with drug users who are searching for a way out from their addiction and stay on the road to recovery, a journey that never ends.

The center specializes in working with addicts who also have mental health issues, a phenomenon that Pinkham said exists in some 70 percent of drug users.

She said on Monday that the center has seen a large increase in traffic just this month, but conceded it's "taking time to get the word out" about what the center has to offer.

Pinkham said that since the center's opening 111 folks have signed up for services. She said some of those have used the center and then stopped coming in, but many continue to utilize services like using the center's computers for job searches.

She also said that 77 have received recovery coaching including 193 recovery coaching sessions, while many others use phone recovery support services.

The Recovery Center is located in the former Roberge Community Center behind the Rochester District Court and is open weekdays from noon-5 p.m. except for Wednesday when they're open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

However, as part of the city's Community Access to Recovery Program, anyone can get help anytime by walking into either Frisbie Memorial Hospital or the Rochester Police Department 24/7.

Pinkham said she was confident the center was having a positive impact on the drug-using community in Rochester, but added there was no quick solution.

"There's a long way to go," she added.

Meanwhile, the SOS Recovery Community Organization housed at the First Church Congregational on South Main has also seen an increase in traffic, said John Burns, the director of SOS.

He said about 50 drug users are currently receiving peer support services from recovery coaches.

Almost 100 more are receiving regular phone support services in an ongoing effort to help them battle addiction issues.

SOS also has offices in Durham and Dover.

Burns said they have anywhere from eight to 15 people a day walk through the doors there looking for help.

Rochester Police told The Lebanon Voice in an exclusive interview over the weekend that through May of this year there have been 56 overdoses reported by Rochester Police, compared to 49 last year, a 16 percent increase.

Overdose deaths have also increased in the same timeframe, from seven last year to nine this year, a 29 percent spike.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, and that last year statistics indicated there were 62,500 overdose deaths, a major increase over the 52,404 from 2015.

Maine and New Hampshire are among the states with the highest fatal overdose rates along with Ohio in the Midwest.

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