Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Letter To The Editor

I sent this to the editor of the River Reporter in Sullivan County, New York.  While a rural area, including part of the Catskill State Park, the county is besieged by drug problems.  New York's legislators are still slow to grasp the enormity of the problem.

In early February I joined several hundred Recovery advocates to meet with lawmakers in Albany. We told our stories of an addiction epidemic that is killing 362 people daily in our communities, stories of struggle, recurrence of the disease, lack of services, incarceration, and unspeakable loss.  At the time I wrote about some of these stories on Medium.  You can go here:  http://bit.ly/1oyuNVu
When we met with lawmakers in Albany we were told that our request to add $50 million additional dollars to a grossly underfunded OASAS budget to support Recovery Community Organizations, Recovery Community enters Recovery Coaches, and Family Support Navigators was a reasonable and rational request. 
More recently the subcommittee for Mental Health decided that $15 million in additional funds for the Executive Budget was an appropriate response to the greatest public health crisis the nation has seen in decades.  This insignificant amount of money on the budget table to address the most deadly  (and stigmatized) epidemic to hit New Yorkers since the AIDS crisis isn’t nearly enough. 
My Easter began Good Friday with a phone call from a distraught mother looking for help, trying to get her daughter into long-term rehabilitation.  Shortly after I talked with another mother whose son is struggling to find adequate long-term recovery services.  Both have stories of substandard treatment in Sullivan County facilities. A county where the coroner reports that a quarter of all deaths are drug related.  Today I had yet another call from a mother desperate to find adequate treatment that also meets the requirements of Sullivan County’s Drug Court.
Without recovery supports in place, our loved ones who receive addiction prevention and treatment services lack a continuum of care for their illness.  This means that when they return to our communities sustained recovery from the disease of addiction becomes extremely difficult – their disease reoccurs, they may break the law or even die.  The broken system is a setup for failure!  We must invest in the infrastructure of recovery supports.
It’s easy to give well-meaning but empty platitudes to a distraught mother or father who have lost their child when they beg lawmakers for help in addressing the number one killer among people aged 18 -24.  But they deserve more.  Our families deserve action.  New York families need more than just words.  We need the necessary resources put into the NYS OASAS budget so that our loved ones don’t continue to die. 
23 million Americans are now living in recovery from the disease of addiction.  That’s 23 million taxpayers who are contributing to their communities.  These people who have successfully battled their disease of addiction are no longer a tax-drain on our communities, rather they are functioning, productive members of society.  They have jobs, families of their own, and lives filled with hope and purpose.  They are living miracles – people who were able to overcome a once helpless and hopeless addiction – to live a life transformed into one of health and wellness.
With 22 million Americans living with active addiction, the solution of recovery is not only possible; it must be made available to anyone who needs it.  The key is that our leaders must be willing to invest financially to address the problem of addiction now.  It’s time to stop talking and start investing so another family like mine doesn’t lose a loved one to the chronic, progressive, and too often fatal disease of addiction.
We need to make addiction recovery a priority now and it starts with the budget.
I am registered and I vote.

Respectfully yours,

Bill Williams
Lew Beach NY


  1. Hi Bill I just found your blog from the NIH website. Thank you for sharing your story, I lost my son February 6th. I live far from you, but this epidemic is spreading so fast, it will saturate the country before long. I adore your writing so far.

    1. Thank you so much Carol. Look for me on Facebook or Twitter. I'd love to send you links to more of my writing that isn't on the blog. I'm so sorry to hear about your son. Let me know if e-mails will help.

    2. I think you can also get my e-mail from this reply. Fingers crossed.