On Tuesday morning, February 28th, more than eight hundred friends of recovery from throughout New York State descended on Albany to call for increased Recovery Support Services (RSS) in their communities. They came by car load and bus load from counties near and far – Nassau, Suffolk, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Rockland, Columbia, Greene, Oneonta, Oneida, Monroe, Erie, Saratoga, Orange, Sullivan, Syracuse, Warren, and Washington. And they came with a message – “Recovery is real! It’s achievable. It’s sustainable. It’s powerful. It’s a chronic disease and like all chronic diseases, it requires ongoing support.”
The day began with a rally at the Empire State Plaza moderated by FOR-NY Acting Executive Director, Stephanie Campbell, during which members of the recovery community shared their personal stories. We heard from individuals in sustained recovery and from family members who lost a loved one to addiction and have channeled their loss into hope for others. We heard from NYS OASAS Commissioner, Arlene González-Sánchez, who announced an additional $250,000 investment in New York certified Recovery Peer Advocates. And, we heard from legislators who re-affirmed their commitment to supporting the recovery community.
After greeting the crowd with “Hello Miracles,” FOR-NY President, Joe Turner was joined by FOR-NY co-founder and current Policy Chair, Richard Buckman, to speak about the power of our stories to effect real change.
FOR-NY Board Secretary, Laurie Lieberman took to the stage to pay tribute to our beloved Immediate Past President, Charlie Devlin, who we lost to cancer only weeks before. With more than 50 years of sustained recovery, Charlie was a true friend and champion of recovery. While he will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him, his spirit will live on as we continue to advance the FOR-NY mission.
Finally, Amaris Elliott-Engel, daughter of our co-founder and past president, presented the inaugural Laura Elliott-Engel Recovery Advocacy Award to Alexis Pleus who upon the loss of her beautiful son, Jeff, just two years ago, founded Truth Pharm. In that short time, her tireless efforts to raise awareness, reduce the stigma surrounding addiction and recovery, create and implement programs, educate the public and advocate for policy change have made a profoundly positive difference in the lives of many throughout the Finger Lakes Region. Thanks to the generous support from Laura’s family, the honor came with a $1,000 cash award which we hope will allow Alexis to further advance Truth Pharm’s critical mission. Her decision to turn the devastating loss of her son, Jeff, into hope for others is one we admire greatly. One of the individuals who nominated her for the award informed us that Alexis only hopes she can make Jeff proud by helping others. Alexis, you have done that and much more.
Following the morning rally, Friends of Recovery – Warren & Washington Counties’ Ashley Livingston led the crowd in a spirited march to the state capitol for a press conference on the “Million Dollar Staircase,” where more friends of recovery shared their stories and called on elected officials to lend their support. Following their stories and asks, Senator George Amedore, Chair, NYS Senate Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, Co-Chair NYS Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, Senator Chris Jacobs, Co-Chair, NYS Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, Senator Fred Akshar, Co-Chair, NYS Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Chair, NYS Assembly Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee re-affirmed their commitments to support recovery supports and services across New York State.
More than one hundred friends of recovery went on to meet with their legislators to share their personal stories about addiction and recovery and to ask for support on a number of recovery support initiatives; all of which are spelled out in FOR-NY’s 2017 Policy Statement.
FOR-NY’s Stand Up for Recovery Day 2017 marked our eighth year of engaging advocates from throughout the state to speak with our policy makers about the power and promise of recovery and the need to fund recovery support services. While hundreds of friends showed up at the events in years past, this more than eight hundred participants reflects not only the growing recovery movement, but the increased urgency for support.
In the spirit of “It Takes a Village,” we are profoundly grateful to each and every one who took a day off from work or from school or away from their families to Stand Up for Recovery this year. Thank you to the nearly two dozen volunteers who stuffed our information folders, staffed our registration tables, collected signs and so much more. Thank you to each and every one who didn’t hit snooze and instead boarded buses at 0-dark hours to be with us and let their voices be heard. Thank you to all who took to the stage and shared their remarkable, personal stories. Thank you to NYS OASAS Commissioner González-Sánchez for continuing to listen and respond to our needs. Thank you to our policymakers for taking the time to understand our plight and ensuring the millions of New Yorkers struggling with addiction, the millions living in Recovery and each and every one of their loved ones have hope. We are profoundly grateful and committed to continuing to advancing the FOR-NY mission until recovery is accessible and achievable to all who seek it; and the shame and stigma that surround this disease is erased. FOR-NY’s vision is, and has always been, to see the day when Recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs is both common and celebrated. While we’re not yet there, we’re making progress and with your continued support, that vision will become a reality. Onward!
You can view photos of the day on our new Flickr page here.