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Opioid treatment providers form coalition to fight drug crisis

Payne Horning
A coalition of addiction treatment clinics from cities in central and northern New York meet every month to increase and improve the region's medication-assisted treatment programs in an effort to battle the opioid epidemic.

New medication-assisted treatment programs are opening across central New York to keep up with the opioid epidemic. The demand for the treatment is so high that a group of clinics are coming together in an effort to get the programs off the ground

"We refer to ourselves as the CNY OTP Provider Group," said Monika Taylor, director of behavioral health at Crouse Hospital. "It's pretty long so maybe we have to think about an acronym."

The coalition includes representatives from opioid treatment programs across the central and northern New York region. The group has expanded in recent months, welcoming in treatment providers from Binghamton and Rochester. 

They began meeting a year ago when the New York state Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services brought them together to share best practices on starting a medication-assisted treatment program. Taylor says both the existing and new programs found the conversation so enlightening that they kept meeting once a month.

"We as programs felt it was important that we do collaborate because in the end it is beneficial to the patients and the community at large and we can learn from each other and put practices into place that are mutually beneficial," Taylor said. 

Taylor says this learning collaboration is unique because it's the first time the region's clinics have come together without a government mandate.

"It’s driven from within our provider group," Taylor said. "It’s not the government coming in or someone saying you have to do this. We decided to wanted do this."

Oswego's Farnham Family Services, which is opening a methadone program this year, is a part of the group. Executive Director Eric Bresee says this coalition was formed in an attempt to meet the unprecedented opioid crisis.

"All of the providers that are doing this are coming together to help each other because we have to band together if we are going to have any kind of success in overcoming this epidemic," Bresee said. 

University of Buffalo family medicine professor Richard Blondell says similar meetings with addiction treatment providers and physicians are forming across the country as the industry wrestles with a record amount of overdose deaths from opioids. 

"There’s a basic need for education support that draws people together and how that occurs might vary from one city to or another," Blondell said. "We can all get together not only to try to learn together, but we share experiences and try to support each other emotionally in our work as well."

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.