Lindsay Ebling, 34, of Fredonia lost her brother last year after he took his own life while serving in the military. 

  • Chautauqua County hosts annual Hope and Healing Conference of WNY
  • The event features guest speakers and information tables
  • Organizers say opioid deaths are on the decline

"I just had so much pain," said Ebling.

Eight years ago, her husband, who was in the Army National Guard and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following a tour in Afghanistan, escaped his trauma through addiction and died after being in a car crash.

"All my hopes and my dreams, they died with him. My whole life was surrounded with this person," said Ebling.

She escaped the pain through an addiction of her own. 

"I found myself just numbing the pain. Opiates, they hit our community pretty hard, and that was the numbing tool for me," said Ebling.

Ebling was just one of several people who attended the 5th annual Hope and Healing Conference at SUNY Fredonia Wednesday.

Organizers say the purpose is to bring greater awareness to addiction, and lead those needing help into recovery.

"To showcase for the community the progress we've made, but also to educate. Because every single one of us in this community has been touched by addiction in some way," said Patricia Brinkman, Chautauqua County Community Mental Hygiene Services director.

Chautauqua County mental health leaders say the number of opioid deaths has decreased, thanks to an increased number of inpatient beds, as well as medication-assisted and outpatient treatment.

Needle exchange and prescription drug drop-off programs are also available to help curb the temptation.

"We're getting to people earlier, we're saving lives earlier. So, every day there seems like we're making more and more progress. But there's still more to be done," said Brinkman.

The event included keynote speakers, training sessions and information tables from various community providers. 

"To focus on prevention, treatment and recovery. The entire spectrum of the substance abuse field. If we can do that and work together as a community, we can make a bigger impact with our community," said Melanie Witkowski, Chautauqua Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council executive director.

"It was a long battle to get me where I am today," said Ebling.

Ebling still gets monthly counseling, and is working to break the stigma and reverse the damage as part of her journey to help others.

"And I can use my pain and my struggles. It starts at a place like this seminar. It's time to heal," said Ebling.

The conference wraps up Thursday.