Watertown agency gets $1.75 to build addiction recovery center

After months of cautious optimism, north country addiction service providers celebrated a victory against the region’s heroin and opioid epidemic on Wednesday.

Pivot, formerly the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council of Jefferson County, was awarded $1.75 million through the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to establish a “recovery community and outreach center” in the city.

The agency, with the help of its partner coalition the Alliance for Better Communities, submitted an application for the five-year grant in October 2015 and then waited several months to hear back from the state.

However, officials now say the wait was worth it — Pivot is one of six recipients chosen from among dozens of applicants and is the only recipient across northern and central New York.

“I think this is absolutely the cat’s meow, because this is what Jefferson County so incredibly, desperately needs,” said Anita K. Seefried-Brown, project director of Pivot and the Alliance. “This will be a place where there is a concentration of resources and where those who are in recovery, or those who wish to recover, can come together and take advantage of what we have to offer.”

William W. Bowman, Pivot’s executive director, agreed. With so many community members affected by the region’s heroin problem, he said, this award is a beacon of hope.

“I personally am so excited for the community,” he said. “We’ve had months and months of terrible news — of tragedies — and now we have something that people can lean on.”

“We’re going to work hard to build a recovery center that is really owned by the community and we will maintain it well past the five years that the funding covers,” Mr. Bowman said.

The outreach center will provide a community-based, non-clinical setting that is safe, welcoming and substance-free for all members of the community.

Ms. Seefried-Brown said Pivot will focus on long-term recovery by offering services in six areas: skill-building, recreation, education, wellness, employment readiness and civic restoration.

To do so, she said, the agency plans to partner with other community organizations like Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, the Watertown Urban Mission, Community Action Planning Council, the Jefferson County Public Health Service and others.

“It is for the community, by the community,” she said.

As for the location of the outreach center, Pivot is still considering its options. However, Mr. Bowman said, a likely site is the former Musicology music store on the first floor of the Marcy Building, 241 State St.

The center will employ at least four full-time employees and several part-time peer counselors. Mr. Bowman said he hopes the facility will be up and running by early 2017.

News of the award spread quickly on Saturday, pleasing both city and county officials.

Jefferson County Community Services Director Roger J. Ambrose, who approved Pivot’s initial application, was just as excited as Ms. Seefried-Brown and Mr. Bowman.

“I’m psyched,” he said. “I think this is the answer to a lot of the concerns that families have had. I really believe that we are in need of this kind of a program.”

City Councilman Stephen A. Jennings was also pleased. He said having this funding come to Watertown speaks volumes about the quality of local service providers and their commitment to the issue.

“To have this resource in the city is tremendous,” he said. “For the folks and their family members who have given up hope, this will go a long way to help address that. They’ll now have somewhere to turn.”

The five other recovery community and outreach centers in New York will be located in Buffalo, Saratoga Springs, Newburgh, Mineola and on Staten Island.

By Eli Anderson, Watertown Daily Times