Photo: Phoebe Sheehan, Albany Times Union
SCHENECTADY — For roughly 30 years, headquarters for New Choices Recovery Center was an old Masonic lodge at the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard.
It was five stories, though only three were usable. It had drafty windows that rattled from the onrush of traffic outside, tiny meeting rooms, equipment jury-rigged with tape and, according to more than a few employees, a ghost.
For these reasons and more, staff at the nonprofit addiction treatment center were happy to finally move out of their longtime home and into brand new headquarters late last year — a 22,500-square-foot facility at 728 State St. notable for its spacious feel and abundance of natural light. But it’s the impact on patients that staff have been most thrilled to see.
“We really try to treat the clients with respect,” said Laura Combs, associate executive director at New Choices. “And I think this building shows that we value them.”
Substance abuse programs are used to operating in the basements and shadows of their local communities — a symptom of the stigma surrounding addiction, Stuart Rosenblatt explained at a ribbon cutting to celebrate the new space this week.
Executive director of the nonprofit since 2010, Rosenblatt praised the state of New York for attempting to break that stigma by investing in new programs and facilities such as theirs. The state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York provided the funding for the $6.5 million facility.
“We have a very dignified space now,” he said. “We serve a lot of disenfranchised individuals, many of whom are homeless, who don’t have a roof over their head. And for them to come into a beautiful setting, I believe, has been inspiring. It’s like night and day from our old space.”
New Choices has grown considerably in the half-century since its founding in 1968.
It started with a drop-in center at a local church, where individuals struggling with alcoholism could gather for coffee and counseling, and grew to accommodate individuals caught up in the cocaine and crack epidemics that followed.
The opioid epidemic currently plaguing the nation is its biggest challenge yet, as a surge in illicitly manufactured fentanyl has killed tens of thousands of drug users who were either unaccustomed to its potency or unaware it had been mixed into their supply.
Today, New Choices provides an array of programs and services including prevention education, community residential, permanent supportive housing, full-day rehabilitation and outpatient treatment, wraparound aftercare, telepractice, mobile outreach and an impaired drivers program.
It sees roughly 150 to 250 patients a day, and hosts 110 groups a week.
In 2017 and 2018, it received more than $1 million in federal Opioid State Targeted Response Grants, which it has used to expand existing services and adopt mobile treatment and telehealth services that allow it to reach residents in far-flung areas of Schenectady, Saratoga and Montgomery counties. So far, it has reached more than 400 individuals through those services.
“If you look back nine, maybe 10 years, you didn’t have these types of programs,” said OASAS Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez. “I think what you’re seeing is a real big shift in the attitude toward addiction and how we should treat addiction.”
In the last three to four years, she said, OASAS has helped establish 80 to 90 different programs statewide geared toward addiction prevention, treatment and recovery. One of her biggest missions, she said, is changing the way people talk about addiction.
“One of the things that we want to focus on is making people feel that they are worth something, because they are,” she said. “It’s a life just like any other life. People make bad choices. Everybody does. But you need to be given the opportunity to get your life together and to change. And that’s what we’re doing and what you see here. People who walk in that door will say, ‘I must mean something to somebody, because if not they would never have done this.'”
Published at Fri, 12 Apr 2019 21:22:49 +0000