PLATTSBURGH — It's important to take care of people at every stage of their addiction, not just when they enter recovery, Rheannon Croy says.
As assistant director of program services at the Alliance for Positive Health's Plattsburgh office, Croy oversees their harm reduction program.
“Most people aren’t in recovery," she said at an International Overdose Awareness Day event Tuesday. "Most people don’t get to stay sober like me and they’re still the same person before they get sober.
"They’re still the same person before they get recovery and I love that I get to take care of those people.”
NEVER USE ALONE
Prior to the event, Croy trained about a dozen people on how to recognize an overdose and use Narcan/nalaxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug administered as a nasal spray.
She advised people to avoid storing their kits in extreme heat or cold but, regardless, to use the Narcan if and when they have to.
The alliance urges people to never use alone, Croy said. She added that New York State has launched a Never Use Alone hotline, which is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-997-2280.
"It’s a hotline for people to call if they’re using alone, if they’re afraid they’re going to overdose so they can talk to somebody, you know, and feel safe," Croy said.
The alliance's other harm reduction programs include a syringe exchange, hepatitis C navigation program and a buprenorphine bridge clinic.
The exchange, Croy said, allows people, including trans individuals, to get unused, sterile intravenous equipment.
"Obviously the needle exchange is great for preventing communicable diseases from spreading in the community, but the other thing is, is when you put a needle exchange in an area, you see infectious diseases go down, you see discarded needles lessen in the community, law enforcement gets stuck a lot less."
HEPATITIS C NAVIGATION
The exchange program helps connect people to hepatitis C navigation, through which the alliance offers people testing.
Once they find out their status, the agency works with them in a care management capacity to help them make and attend appointments, advocate for them, help them get their medication and remind them to take it, Croy said.
"We see them through to cure. You can cure hepatitis C and people can get better and they can stop spreading it and, even if they’re still using needles, they can do it safely because they’re not sharing.
"So it’s to protect the individual, it’s to keep them alive and safe and healthy, but it’s also to protect the community."
The buprenorphine, or Suboxone, bridge clinic is a short-term program that gives people access to that medication until they can be connected with a primary care doctor.
"A lot of what we do is helping local outpatients because they are so flooded with people and their doctors sometimes can’t see somebody for a month, so that means that person’s waiting for a month," Croy said.
"We just prescribe to them, treat any wounds that they might have, and then once they can get in with the doctor, the doctor just picks them up, so it’s really a supportive program."
Croy said she likes talking about harm reduction because, most of the time, recovery, treatment and prevention are the main topics of conversation when it comes to addiction.
"The people who are actively using are the biggest bulk of where they’re at. You know, most people don’t get sober or stay sober. Most people, they stay in active addiction."
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