NORWICH — Substance use can be a challenging and dangerous issue for many individuals and their families, but there are several organizations, programs, and resources in the City of Norwich that are there to help.
The Turning Point of Chenango County, also known as FORDO, located at 24 East Main Street in Norwich, holds all recovery meetings at 12:30 p.m. on Mondays and 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, NA meetings at 2 p.m. on Fridays and 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and AA meetings at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Faith-based recovery is offered at cvFree Silver, located at 23 Silver Street in Norwich. Support Overcome Achieve Recovery (SOAR) is a faith-based, 12-step recovery meeting that meets at 6 p.m. every Tuesday.
April Carney, a local resident who facilitates several recovery groups in the area, said the meetings aren't just for those seeking recovery, either.
"[They] are open meetings, so you don’t have to be an addict to attend these meetings. You can be a relative or a friend of, or you could just be curious and not know how to handle the people that are coming around your home or whatever, and it’s a good way to educate people on what's real," she said.
FORDO also offers recovery coaching for those looking to stop their substance use, which are one-on-one appointments with a certified recovery coach.
"We would get people who would come in and [we would] get them plugged in with a recovery coach mostly on a weekly basis, or however frequently they want to meet with their recovery coach to develop a plan for their recovery based on their goals, their visions, what they want to happen in their recovery," explained FORDO Director of Finance and Operations Ryan Alscheimer.
Those looking to be trained on the use of Narcan, a potentially life-saving treatment for opioid overdoses, can contact FORDO for training opportunities.
"We hope that anyone who walks in can get Narcan trained if they have a request to do so. So it’s not necessarily by appointment," said FORDO Executive Director Debra Berrios. "All staff are trained, if there’s availability and someone’s not doing anything, you walk in the door, you can be Narcan trained."
Carney encourages local residents and businesses to get trained on the use of Narcan and carry it with them, as there may come a time where it's needed.
"I don’t keep bandaids in my medicine cabinet because I have a cut on my finger all the time. It’s just good to have," Carney explained. "I carry around an epi-pen on me, personally. Not because I’m allergic, but because I know somebody else might need it and I’ll have it."
In addition to Narcan training and supply, FORDO also provides fentanyl testing strips, which can be used to detect fentanyl in drugs before use to help prevent an overdose.
On Monday, six City of Norwich residents suffered overdoses, two of which resulted in death that police suspect were caused by fentanyl. City of Norwich Police Chief Reuben Roach said more likely would have died if it were not for Narcan use by first responders.
According to Carney, a new and deadly drug has hit the streets as well. Xylazine, also known as "tranq dope," is an animal tranquilizer that is being mixed with heroin, she said.
"It’s worse than fentanyl, and when somebody overdoses and Narcan is used, Narcan does not work on this. So it’s pretty much a lethal drug," she said. "Some addicts look for the stuff that takes you near death because in their eyes that’s the good stuff, sadly. Other addicts think that they’re getting their normal heroin, and it’s laced with this and they have no idea, and then they go to do the same amount that they would if it was the normal heroin, and it’s really this other drug and it results in an overdose."
The Turning Point of Chenango County/FORDO can be reached by calling 607-373-3825, or by stopping by the facility at 24 East Main Street in Norwich from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Support is also out there for loved ones of those struggling with substance use. Truth Pharm, a Binghamton-based organization that aims to reduce stigma and educate communities on substance use, offers a family support group every first and third Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Guernsey Memorial Library, located at 3 Court Street in Norwich.
"It’s a support group for the people who are not necessarily using substances themselves but are impacted by the use of someone that they love. We know it can be really hard to understand that our loved ones are using substances, and also to help them find treatment, to help them stay safe, and we also get met with a lot of really bad advice during this time," said Truth Pharm Program Coordinator Courtney Hayes.
"We hear people tell us stop enabling, and we have this crippling anxiety when the phone rings late at night, and it’s just really a terrifying and a scary and anxiety inducing time. So the family support group is developed as a way to make sure that other people don’t go through that experience feeling lost and alone."
Truth Pharm offers regular Narcan training classes in Broome and Chenango Counties as well, both in person and virtually. Visit the Truth Pharm Facebook page for more information on their services and upcoming trainings.
Carney, who is in recovery herself with four years and eight months clean, said there are many reasons someone may start using substances. Growing up in a home where substance use is prevalent can lead individuals down the same path. Others turn to substances to cope with trauma, or simply because they want to fit in with others around them.
Most importantly though, she said compassion and being non-judgmental is crucial in getting those struggling with substance use the help they need.
"Being an outsider, like moving to New York, I do see that one of the biggest hurdles for addicts around here asking for help or even getting into a meeting is judgment. There is so much judgment from people," she said.
She said it's also important to remember that while trying a drug for the first time is a choice, those in the throes of addiction or newly in recovery have physical and mental struggles that take the choice away from them and can potentially take years to overcome.
"We all decide if we want to try that or not, and the ones that do end up trying it, it’s a gamble on if you’re an addict or not," Carney explained. "Some people can put it down, some people can’t. And when you find out that you can’t then you go into survival mode and now you’re using to survive, and at some point it is no longer a choice."
"People that are fresh into recovery, still don’t have a choice. They still have things in their brain and physical things in their body telling them that they need to use. When somebody gets further into their recovery like me, I have four years and eight months clean, I work a program and I now know that I have a choice. So I stay aware of that choice," she continued.
"But new people fresh off the street, they don’t have a choice. They’re battling a lot of things that people don’t see, like the physical withdrawal, the mental withdrawal. Mental withdrawal from a drug like crystal methamphetamine is horrible, and depending on how long you have used, that could last up to two years."
To support the community, Carney and her husband often go to local parks to clean up litter and drug paraphernalia, and they welcome anyone interested in helping out to join them, or go out on their own to clean up.
"My husband and I started going out and cleaning up parks and that was how we introduced ourselves to the town. We would post on social media, but not to get credit for it but to like form a little group that maybe we all can go out and do this, because I don’t believe in complaining about something unless you’re going to be in the solution of it," said Carney. "And part of my history was not properly disposing of what I was using when I was using. So I give back to the community by getting out there and picking this stuff up."
She said in response to their posts, several individuals utilizing the services at FORDO joined them to help clean up the parks.
For those that want to clean up their community on their own, Carney suggests using tongs to pick up syringes and paraphernalia, keeping gloves on hands for items that may need to be touched to clean up, and using Gatorade bottles with thick plastic to put syringes and other sharps into to prevent them ripping or poking through garbage bags.
During these cleanups, Carney said she also tries to offer help to those they come across by sharing information on local recovery groups and resources.
"Not only do we pick stuff up, but while my husband is doing most of the cleaning up, I’m walking up to people that are looking like they’re not doing so well and I’m talking to them about these meetings and about recovery centers and about Narcan, making sure they have resources because some people just don’t know," she said.
"It's their lives, people are dying. It's so scary."
More information on Carney's park cleanups can be found on the Keeping Up With Norwich Facebook page.
More information on FORDO and their available resources can be found at FriendsofRecoveryDO.org or on the Friends of Recovery of Delaware and Otsego Counties, Inc. (FOR-DO) Facebook page.
For more information on Truth Pharm and their programs and services can be found at TruthPharm.org or the Truth Pharm Facebook page.