LOCKPORT — Niagara County legislators remembered the victims of fatal overdoses and commended efforts to fight addiction Tuesday with a proclamation declaring September as Recovery Month.
During a press conference before the Niagara County Legislature meeting during which the proclamation was unanimously approved, county officials released 20 black balloons — one for every confirmed death by drug overdose in Niagara County this year.
But they also released white and purple balloons to represent recovery and hope. And they commended those with substance abuse problems who maintain sobriety, as well as the medical providers, counselors and first responders who help them along the way.
"We struggle to balance the grim reality of overdose deaths with the proven truth that prevention works, treatment is effective and recovery is possible," said Niagara County Legislator Rebecca Wydysh, R-Lewiston, chairman of the Opioid Addiction/Overdose Strategy Implementation Standing Committee.
Two recovering addicts addressed the handful of county officials and reporters present, praising the county's drug court program which defers sentences for suspects who undergo court-mandated drug abuse treatment.
"A little over a year ago my life was in shambles. Everything was coming down," Amy Bragg said. "I finally hit my rock bottom. I was arrested, I was put on probation and by the grace of God I was able to go to the Madonna House (a residential rehabilitation facility for women). That saved my life."
Bragg said today she is married, able to always be there for her children and considering getting her master's degree.
"I'm blessed and grateful to have a second chance at life," she said.
Perhaps the most personal story came from Majority Leader Randy Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, who lost a nephew at 22 years old, last year to a drug overdose.
"There is a chance, there is hope," Bradt said. "We're trying to find new ways to get it to you. Just please realize there's always a second chance, there's always hope out there."
Wydysh urged those battling substance abuse, or those who suspect their loved ones are abusing drugs or alcohol, to contact the county's 24 hours crisis services at 285-3515.