Sullivan County Debuts New Mental Health/Addiction Info Line & Billboard   

Monticello, NY – Taking another significant step towards improving Sullivan County’s health, Public Health Director Nancy McGraw joined local, regional and state officials Friday in unveiling a new information line for those seeking referrals to addiction and mental health resources and professionals: 866-832-5575.

“In collaboration with Sullivan Agencies Leading Together (S.A.L.T.) and with funds from New York State, Sullivan County Public Health Services continues to do all that we can to be there for those who need us when they need us,” McGraw affirmed. “We want to get the message out there that yes, we have very alarming overdose rates in the County, but there is hope, and this is one way to stop the stigma and help people find the resources they need.”

The billboard itself is located along Route 42 in Kiamesha Lake, a heavily traveled corridor just north of Monticello. Two smaller versions are now on display at the Sullivan County Government Center in Monticello and Public Health Services in Liberty. The County also is printing handheld and wallet-size copies for easy distribution.

It should be noted this is not an emergency services number. People with life-threatening issues should dial 911. But both 866-832-5575 and #HopeNY will put callers and texters in touch with real people willing and ready to assist them, 24/7, in determining how best to access the places and programs which serve those struggling with addiction and mental health concerns.

“If you have a problem or a member of your family has a problem, call this number,” NYS Senator John Bonacic remarked. “This is a guide. They will tell you where you can go, what treatment you can have, if you have insurance, the inpatient/outpatient services you can access. Please call – there is help out there!”

S.A.L.T member Catholic Charities, which operates the Recovery Center in Monticello, is one of the agencies that will staff the help line when Public Health Services is closed.

“It’s an honor for us to serve. It’s important for us to recognize and identify the times in our lives when we really do feel kind of hopeless,” explained Martin Colavito, Director of Prevention and Adolescent Services at Catholic Charities. “And everybody in this room is part of that solution.”

“Together, we are committed to ensuring that members of our community can get the help they need,” agreed Angelica Marrero, representing Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther. “There is always hope!”

“I think that’s the part we want to let folks know: there is hope, and people recover,” Sullivan County Health & Family Services Commissioner Joseph Todora acknowledged. “I believe in recovery. I see it working on a regular basis. Their lives are pretty good, they’re holding a job, they’re out in our communities. So when we tell you that there is hope, there are examples around you.”

District 3 Legislator Mark McCarthy deeply touched listeners with a searingly personal account of his struggle with addiction starting at age 15. He urged people to reach out, to not be afraid of any stigma, and to start a new chapter like he did.

“I sought help on December 15, 1985. There were no numbers to call where I grew up, but I knew a fellow to call,” he poignantly related. “And I just want to reach out to anyone who’s suffering themselves to let you know that there are people all around you, people that you don’t even know, that are in recovery – they’ve been through it, they know about it, they understand it, and they care.”

The opioid epidemic has certainly not spared Sullivan County. Health and law enforcement officials are keenly aware of this and are taking action to address the issue on all sides.

“The U.S. is 5% of the world’s population, and we consume 99% of the world’s hydrocodone supply,” District Attorney James Farrell somberly noted to shocked listeners. “We have to tell our children that these drugs are dangerous, that they can kill you. So what are we doing? We’re trying to get people before they become addicted, to educate our youth, to make them aware, before it starts.”

“We need to take measures at the federal level to stop the mixed signals that we’re sending to our children. The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world that allows direct advertising of pharmaceutical products to the public,” said District 9 Legislator Alan Sorensen, who recently led his colleagues in launching a lawsuit to stop drug companies from engaging in irresponsible advertising. “It’s time now to end that epidemic of planting a seed in our children’s minds that the only solution to their issues is a ‘magic pill.’”
“This billboard says, ‘This county is doing something about it,’” Deputy Sullivan County Manager Daniel Depew stated. “As County Manager Josh Potosek has said, Sullivan County has declared war on anything that has a negative impact on our health, and we are going to make sure everything we do addresses those issues first, so we can become a pinnacle, an example – not of where we were, but where we’re going.”

“As chair of the Legislature’s Health & Family Services Committee,” remarked District 2 Legislator Nadia Rajsz after the unveiling, “I’m proud of our staff, especially Public Health, and I’m grateful to all the involved agencies which unified to make this possible for the benefit of our residents. We are moving forward in a positive direction.”

For more information and copies of the handheld/wallet-size versions of the billboard, Public Health Services welcomes calls to 845-292-5910 during regular business hours.