As COVID-19 continues to impact communities across the country, we’ve all made changes to our daily lives to keep ourselves safe and healthy from the virus. However, for some people, hunkering down at home doesn’t mean safety at all – it actually puts them at greater risk for substance abuse. According to a report in Newsweek, overdose deaths have increased nationwide by nearly 15 percent over the last three to four months. Access to addiction education and treatment is more important now than ever before.
S2AY Rural Health Network is committed to providing education and awareness in the Finger Lakes region of western New York. Through federal grant funding, S2AY formed a Regional Opioid Task Force, under the direction of Program Manager of Mental Health and Substance Use, Katie Basu, LCSW. The task force addresses and combats the opioid epidemic from many different angles, including community awareness, training, and education. The Task Force consists of over 140 individuals who represent diverse backgrounds, including public health officials, government entities, treatment providers, community coalitions, national guard counterdrug representatives and other community members.
One of these individuals is Brandon Beuter, who maintains an essential role in the Task Force’s efforts to fight substance abuse and addiction. For more than 20 years, Brandon has personally experienced overdoses, injury, incarceration and lost loved ones due to substance use. Two years ago, his life was uprooted when his fiancée died from an overdose after relapsing with prescription drugs that were leftover in their medicine cabinet, leaving him as a single parent of their one-year-old son. His recovery is different this time because he has a greater passion and a purpose outside of himself.
Now, Brandon works as a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate with the AIM Independent Living Center, a partner of S2AY’s Opioid Task Force. In this role, Brandon has his boots on the ground in the community, meeting face-to-face with people who are struggling with their own journeys of substance use and connecting them with resources and tools, like DisposeRx, that help them into healing. His experience allows him to connect with others on a deeper, personal level, building trust and safety with whomever is seeking help. Using the OD Map, which provides real-time overdose data gathered from emergency services, Brandon can make contact with a person who has overdosed within 24 hours and connect them with resources that will allow them to begin healing. Brandon says that active addiction feels hopeless, but his work shows that there is hope and recovery is possible.
In addition to Brandon’s work in the community, S2AY’s Opioid Task Force hosts events for the community that strive to educate and end the stigma of addiction, highlighting that recovery is possible. Over the last two years, they have distributed over 4,000 DisposeRx packets in their service area and plan to distribute another 6,000 in the next year!
DisposeRx is proud to support the incredible work that S2AY, Brandon, and the entire Opioid Task Force continue to do for the Finger Lakes region. Our community partners constantly inspire us with their passion, persistence and commitment to their communities.
To learn more about S2AY Rural Health Network visit http://www.s2aynetwork.org/