ALBANY – If he were still alive today, Linda Ventura's son Thomas would be 29 years old.
In eight years, the man born on Long Island missed a lot: the birth of his niece and nephew, dozens of photos with family and friends and countless smiles in between.
Thomas Ventura died on March 14, 2012 of an overdose the day after he returned from a 21-day rehabilitation center. He was 21.
"He failed on an outpatient basis," said his mother Linda Ventura on Tuesday from the well of the legislative office building in Albany. "He failed, but the bottom is not a bottom. The low point is death. There is no going back from death. “
Ventura joined Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, chairperson of the Linda Rosenthal meeting, D-67; Senator Pete Harckham, D-40; and John Coppola with alcoholism and drug abuse providers from New York State Inc. at a Tuesday afternoon rally to highlight government efforts to combat opioid abuse.
Coppola introduced each of the speakers from a podium in front of the fountain, which was full of people listening from chairs on the floor to the grand staircase in the back of the room. About a dozen tables with representatives from various recovery, rehabilitation, and drug abuse organizations were in the crowd.
"We are here to advocate resources, prevention and treatment – any kind of support to help people find recovery in their lives," said Coppola. "What do you think could be done with additional funds To be done? "
Representatives urged government officials to increase the amount of money proposed in the 2020-21 executive budget to combat the state and nation's opioid epidemic by investing in community-based programs.
Coppola outlined the group's current mission: to fight for 3% additional support for community-based drug and substance abuse organizations for the next five years.
The state had 3,224 overdose deaths in 2017 – a rate of 16.1 Deaths per 100,000 people compared to an average national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Na national institute for drug abuse.
The epidemic has hit the state and nation with increasing numbers in the past decade. The largest increase was seen in synthetic opioid-related deaths, primarily fentanyl. 2,238 deaths were reported in 2017, compared to 210 deaths in 2013.
Publicity, recovery, education and prevention programs consistently require more funding, Coppola said.
"We need really robust resources to get the job done," said Coppola. “There are some programs in New York State that are funded at rates they received 12, 13, or 14 years ago. Nobody can pay bills today with installments that they received 15 years ago. “
The Vice Governor shared her personal experience with addiction and said that many addicts were born outside of stereotypical circumstances. In high school, Hochul's nephew suffered a hand injury and became addicted to opioids after his doctor prescribed it for the pain.
"My nephew was struggling with addiction because he was listening to his doctor … he was just following his doctor's orders," said Hochul. "He struggled to defend himself for years, and he hit rock bottom."
When Hochul's nephew sought support, he came across roadblocks to get the treatment he needed due to Medicaid paperwork and financial difficulties, she said. This has to change.
"He went back into the street and it wasn't long before they found a needle in his arm," Hochul recalled. "It has to end now. We have lost too many lives – precious lives.
"It doesn't come from the fact that we didn't have enough capacity to take care of you. Never again in the State of New York."
The stigma of drug use and drug addiction is the biggest Barrier that holds back officials and organizations working to combat the opioid crisis, said Harckham.
"The stigma of people seeking help – the stigma for families to report … to those of you to provide adequate services, "he said." Stigma is a big part of it, and if we try to fight that stigma, we can no longer remain anonymous. "
Ventura agreed: The path to recovery involves ending the stigma, and this requires survivors and survivors families to share their stories.
"We must stay united," said Ventura, founder of Thomas & # 39; H ope Foundation that raises awareness and prevention to combat drug addiction. "We are in the trenches every day. If the door opens, we have to bring the patient to recovery. We pick you up wherever you are and make sure that something happens for you."