ROCHESTER - This week the battle to free this city from the yoke of opioid addiction will be fully joined with the signing of a lease agreement for a Recovery Center to be housed at the Roberge Community Center in downtown Rochester.
Frisbie Memorial Hospital CEO John Marzinzik told The Lebanon Voice late last week he intended to sign the lease this week and hopes to have the center up and running within a couple of months.
Marzinzik said a walk-in Recovery Center is what the city desperately needs, and Frisbie will foot the lease for the first year.
"The time for just talking is over," he said. "We give them (heroin users) phone numbers, and the hope is they'll call that number and get help. But this will be different. Here they'll be able to walk in off the street, and we'll get them a peer-to-peer coach who can talk to them about a recovery plan."
Marzinzik said right now he's convinced there aren't enough resources to handle the volume of those who might want to escape the Russian roulette with their life that is opioid addiction.
While Frisbie will be picking up the cost of a full year's lease, the city of Rochester will kick in $75,000 to pay for a building supervisor and recovery coach activity for the first year.
Marzinzik said there was some blowback from the community when he first announced his hope to set up a Recovery Center for heroin addicts in the downtown, but once the public realized there would be no housing, no medical treatment and no medical personnel, they got behind it in a hurry.
"There were a lot of misperceptions about what it was and we had a very open and frank discussion," Marzinzik said. "We said look, we think we can make a positive difference, help people with substance abuse. Let's try it for a year and see if it works."
Once the Roberge Community Center's Recovery Program is up and running, there will be structured programs as well as peer counseling and recovery coaches available there.
But Marzinzik envisions and is facilitating for two other programs to help fill the gaps in combatting Rochester's growing heroin epidemic.
First, he is hoping to get an abstinence-based program called Bonfire Recovery up and running by October.
Bonfire Recovery currently has a facility in Dover and offers "refuge, structure, and guidance to men who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction."
Bonfire currently operates a 12-Step men's sober living halfway house "founded by people living in long-term recovery who are committed to providing a safe and supportive recovery environment," according to their website.
Marzinzik said he expects the Rochester version of the facility to be near the hospital but not on hospital property.
And for those unable to go clean without a drug component, he's expecting an operation called Groups to lease downtown space where they'll begin a suboxone-based heroin cessation center, which will include weekly therapy session, too.
Groups, on their website, says after six months of some drug component and weekly therapy, they have a retention rate of 65 percent, with 85 percent of those totally abstinent from opiates.
Marzinzik expects Groups to partner with Rochester physicians to administer the program. He hopes they'll have a facility in downtown Rochester this fall.
"We're trying to create a venue for these programs to take off," said Marzinzik, who passionately believes its Frisbie's responsibility to help the community of Rochester move forward, grab the bull by the horns and try to deliver whatever services are necessary to end the needless overdoses and overdose deaths.
"There are many, many people that want to help, and I'm trying to open the doors and get together, and we'll take it one step at a time," he said.
He backed up the urgency of the cause by noting that Frisbie treated 369 overdoses in 2014, 489 in 2015 and they'll easily surpass 500 this year.
A final front will be in the schools, where it is expected Rochester Police will this year begin teaching kindergarteners on up about the dangers from drugs and how to develop defenses when pressured by peers to use them.