NEWBURGH, N.Y. — Members of the Newburgh community came together on Saturday to share information, speak their experiences and help forge a path toward ending the opioid crisis happening right in our backyard.
"It is like a tidal wave, it is like a tsunami hitting this community, our community, our world," says Lauren Mandel, a nurse who lost her 22-year-old son Zane to opioid addiction last September. "It's not just anybody's kid, it's my kid, it's your kid, it's everybody's kid."
Frank Barone from Hudson Valley Community Services survived his addiction and now helps others dealing with opioid use, working with a syringe exchange program.
"You can read a hundred books and you think that you know about addiction, but until you’ve actually been through addiction and have experienced it, you're never going to truly understand what it's like to be a heroin addict on the streets,” said Barone.
Assemblyman Frank Skartados (D-Milton) led a passionate panel discussion and town hall with leaders in policy, treatment and prevention who spoke candidly about how the community can help save lives. And many in the audience had stories like Mandel's or Barone's.
Saturday’s event was less about explaining the problem everyone knows exists, and more about finding compassionate solutions to support those dealing with addiction.
"People are crying for treatment, but so many people are addicted to this idea that addiction and recovery works one way,” says New York State Director Kassandra Frederique of Drug Policy Alliance. "That it's cold turkey. That you can't use medication. That it's tough love. That you have to hit rock bottom. It works for some people, and it kills others."