LOCKPORT, N.Y. -- Lots of purple balloons were handed out at the Niagara County Courthouse Tuesday evening — Amy Bragg worked hard for hers.
"A little over a year ago, my life was in shambles," Bragg told a crowd gathered on the courthouse steps.
She was addicted to painkillers prescribed after a car accident, and eventually moved on to heroin.
"Number one, it was cheaper than it was to buy pills, and number two, it took the pain away and it took that sickness away," Bragg said. "I think that it was more being afraid of being sick than it was the pain."
She was arrested for selling a pill, but still couldn't quit, even while pregnant.
Bragg says getting caught violating probation was her saving grace. It led her to treatment at Madonna House, which she credits with saving her life.
"It felt like my world was crashing in. I was losing everything," she said. "I was in jeopardy of losing my older two kids; I was in jeopardy of losing the baby. It was just really hard.”
Bragg shared her story as part of Niagara County's observance of National Recovery Month.
The county's Dept. of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services director says just starting the road to recovery can be difficult because of the stigma still surrounding addiction.
"People don't realize that addiction is a disease that impacts a body's physical chemistry, and so they think that a person is making decisions to use, rather than being addicted," said Director Laura Kelemen.
She says an expansion of treatment beds available and a grant for Best Self Behavioral Health to start a mobile outreach program are among promising advances in the county's recovery services.
And the legislature's OASIS Committee is launching a media campaign to publicize the crisis hotline number.
"Everyone needs a different type of treatment, and that's what we're trying to do right now is just get everything available that we can," said Legislator Rebecca Wydysh.
There's still a lot of work to be done. Twenty black balloons were released at this ceremony in honor of those who've lost their lives to opioid addiction in the county so far this year.
But then there were the white balloons, representing hope for those still fighting. And of course the purple, symbolizing those who've recovered and prove it's possible.
The number for Niagara County's Crisis Services hotline is (716) 285-3515. Anyone struggling with addiction or loved ones of a person who is can call 24/7 to receive free, confidential help.