Orleans Recovery Hope provides a missing piece for recovering addicts

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Recovery coaches and advocates for Orleans Recovery Hope are shown at a benefit for the organization Saturday at the VFW in Medina. From left are Stephanie Higgs, Kathy Hodgins, Kim Lockwood, Tiffany Neroni, Mike Schroeder, Don Snyder and Wayne Litchfield.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 30 October 2018 at 9:09 am

12 have been trained as recovery coaches

Peer recovery coach Keith Greer chats with Tammy Ashton, Kim Lockwood and Tiffany Neroni, board members of Orleans Recovery Hope, during a fundraiser Saturday at the VFW in Medina.

MEDINA – There has always been a missing piece in the treatment of recovering drug addicts, said Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower.

Now, Bower thinks the county has found the answer.

Bower attended a fundraiser Saturday afternoon at the VFW in Medina for Orleans Recovery Hope, a peer organization which grew out of a group founded a year ago to work with recovering addicts.

“Often when an addict leaves the jail bed he goes to a rehab bed, but when he gets out of rehab, too many times he’s right back in the jail bed,” Bower said. “There was always a missing piece. Orleans Recovery Hope is that missing piece.”

Orleans Recovery Hope started with Kim Lockwood and several of her friends who had heard too many times about their friends losing loved ones to drug overdoses.

In 2017, they said, “This has to stop.”

Wayne Litchfield, retired dispatcher for the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department; Don Snyder, jail chaplain; and Tami Ashton, who lost her daughter to a drug overdose, had been meeting regularly at Dunkin’ Donuts to discuss what could be done about the opioid crisis in Orleans County. They learned Lockwood and her friends were having the same discussions.

They joined forces, and a year ago, they organized the first meeting of Orleans Hope at the former high school on Catherine Street in Medina. The community and law enforcement turned out in a big way.

Now 12 people have been trained as recovery coaches and the organization renamed Orleans Recovery Hope has become a 501c4.

Saturday’s fundraiser, organized by Lockwood, was to raise money to train more recovery coaches, to create programs to reach and help those fighting drugs, and to end the stigma and get the community talking about what’s going on with the opioid crisis.

“We want to do more community awareness events because people must begin to talk about this,” Lockwood said.

Douglas and Kristine Ames of Medina wear T-shirts with pictures of their daughter Erin, who died at age 32 of a drug overdose. The Ames are raising their two granddaughters, Callie, 4, left, and Keirra, 7. The family poses with a toy box Douglas made and donated for a raffle Saturday at the Medina VFW to benefit Orleans Recovery Hope.

Lockwood had a hard time fighting back tears as she viewed the people in the room wearing pictures on their T-shirts of a loved one lost to drugs, and of the array of baskets donated to support the event.

Two of those parents were Douglas and Kristine Ames of Medina, who lost their daughter Erin, 32, on June 2, 2017. The Ames are raising granddaughters Keirra, 7, and Callie, 4. Douglas made a wooden toy box and donated it for the raffle in memory of Erin.

Bower has been fighting the drug crisis even before he became Sheriff. He praised the efforts of those involved with Orleans Recovery Hope and talked about his program “Sheriff Cares,” which stands for Community Addiction Rehabilitation Education. It is his goal to be able to identify drug users and get them the help they need.

Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower shakes hands with Keith Greer, a peer recovery coach from Rochester.

“As the result of the energy of these guys who picked up the ball and ran with it, you can see how Orleans Recovery Hope is succeeding,” he said.

A special speaker at the afternoon event was Keith Greer, a peer recovery coach in Rochester and half of a team who trains recovery coaches there. He praised the efforts of Orleans Recovery Hope and said organizations like this are the answer to combating drug addiction.

“We can’t wait for government to come and fix the problem,” he said. “It’s not going to happen.”

Peer recovery coaches are relatively new, having only been around in Rochester for three years. It takes someone who has had some form of involvement with drugs – either personally, a friend or loved one – to become a peer coach, Greer said.

“You combine their experience with the passionate skills they already have, and you have created a lane in the middle for people dealing with addiction,” he said.

Greer said their goal is to get recovery coaches into emergency rooms.

“Drug addiction is the only disease where a person can show up with symptoms and be sent home,” he said.

There are multiple paths to recovery and a recovery coach is trained to look for the right path for each person.

Tiffany Neroni acknowledged The Hilltop Restaurant in Lockport for their support of Orleans Recovery Hope.

The Hilltop’s owner Tony Conrad prepared snacks for the event and wants to establish a scholarship for someone in recovery who wants to further their education. He lost a brother-in-law to a drug overdose.

Money raised by Orleans Recovery Hope has also paid for rack cards which Lockwood said they have distributed throughout the county.

“This is how change is going to happen in our community and every community,” Greer concluded.

These individuals who came forward during a fundraiser Saturday at the VFW in Medina for Orleans Recovery Hope are all wearing T-shirts of their loved one lost to a drug overdose. At right is Don Snyder, jail chaplain who is president of the board of Orleans Recovery Hope.

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