Dusten Rader/Express staff
Area residents and local business owners gather May 12 at the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce for a seminar on opioid addiction.

By DUSTEN RADER
Fulton County Express

GLOVERSVILLE — A dozen area residents, local business owners and health care professionals gathered Friday morning to discuss a disease of epidemic proportions: addiction.
According to a release, one in four people know someone addicted to opioids and abusers are 40 percent more likely to use heroin. Many such individuals put their lives at risk through overdose or put their employment at risk.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2015, 9.5 percent of adult workers reported that they were dependent on alcohol or illicit drugs.
This disturbing trend is the reason the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, the HFM Prevention Council and the Fulton and Montgomery counties departments of public health held a seminar titled “Impacting Business: Solutions and Resources for the Addiction Crisis.”

Impact, recovery
Rachel Truckenmiller, associate executive director of the HFM Prevention Council, began the seminar with a presentation that illustrated the impact of the crisis on local business and the resources available to help employees through the difficult process of recovery. Truckenmiller started by pointing out that addiction is a disease, and should be thought of like any other affliction.
“The problem with addiction is that it’s a brain disease, which makes it very complicated,” Truckenmiller said.
Truckenmiller added that one of the key factors to a successful recovery is a strong support system.
“The length of time of use isn’t the determining factor of your ability to get well or be successful in treatment,” Truckenmiller said. “One of the things that happens with a length of time of using is that you tend to lose more and more of your support systems and you tend to lose health.”
The presentation pointed to the National Safety Council, which has a tool that can estimate the cost of substance abuse on a business. According to the NSC, the average per-year cost avoidance for an employee who recovers from a substance abuse disorder is $3,200.
Identifying the disorder is the first step to the recovery process, Truckenmiller said. She presented a number of signs that may indicate an individual is suffering from addiction, including: openly talking about money problems, a decline in personal hygiene, complaints of problems at home or taking time off for vague reasons.
Carol Greco, director of addiction services at St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam, answered questions from the audience about methadone and Suboxone, which are medications used in conjunction with counseling to treat opioid addiction.
“The more open the communication is with the employer, the easier this is to do,” Greco said. “But, we have people who come to us who say, ‘I don’t want my employer to know I’m in treatment,’ and that’s their right.
“ … In addiction treatment we work on alternative management of anxiety, stress and pain so that your first thing is not to take a drug to fix whatever is not necessarily quite right,” Greco continued.

Resources
The presentation concluded with a number of resources for both employers and individuals, including:
• SAMHSA’s workplace
assessment, www.samhsa.
gov/workplace/toolkit
• NYS Hopeline,
1-877-8-HOPENY
• HFM Prevention
Council, 736-8188
• Recovery Center,
705-4626
• St. Mary’s addiction
services, Gloversville,
773-3532, Amsterdam,
843-4410, mental health
hotline, 842-9111,
inpatient rehabilitation,
841-7321
Ann Rhodes, executive director of the HFM Prevention Council, said she attended the event offer her support and to spread awareness of the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center in Johnstown.
The center at 86 Briggs Street is currently operating, but Rhodes said a grand opening ceremony is scheduled for June 16 at 1 p.m.
Rhodes said keeping people employed in a steady environment helps the recovery process.
“One of the things the Recovery Center wants to develop with employers as part of a recovery-friendly workplace is that if you have someone who is struggling that we will back you up,” Rhodes said. “We will talk to them, help them and do everything we can to keep them in recovery, working and being a good employee.”
Dr. Irina Gelman, director of the Fulton County Department of Public Health, discussed the current laws and legislation that can make dealing with addiction a difficult process. She also spoke about the upcoming joint task force panel discussion on heroin scheduled for May 24 at 3 p.m. at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
“This is a crisis affecting all counties including most rural ones,” Gelman said. “Resources are needed to conduct accurate surveillance of how many in the workplace are plagued with this issue as well as deaths related to overdoses.”

Overdose
In addition to the seminar and discussion, attendees were given the opportunity to train in the use of naloxone (Narcan), a nasal or syringe-based medicine that blocks opioids, restores normal breathing and counters the effects of overdose.
According to Joseph Filippone, program director for Catholic Charities’ Project Safe Point, training can be the difference in saving someone’s life. Knowing how to use the devices correctly and other skills such as CPR, the recovery position and the sternum rub are integral in dealing with overdose situations. But, ultimately, he said, the most important thing is to call 911 immediately.
The cost of the training was $15, but participants were provided with a kit that contained two doses.