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Progress report on new addiction hotline

The Addiction Open Access Hotline debuted late in the summer, and counselors have already taken more than 400 calls from Western New Yorkers looking for help.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Addiction Open Access Hotline -- funded through a grant from New York State to help fight the opioid epidemic and other dependency -- has been operating since late this summer, and it's already taken in more than 400 calls.

Horizon Health Services runs the program, and the calls are answered by specially-trained counselors at Crisis Services.

The number to call is 716-831-7007.

2 On Your Side was first to report on the hotline, and we caught back up with those involved to get a progress report.

"We feel it's a success," said Rachel Morrison, program director for the hotlines at Crisis Services. "It's really needed in our community, and we have counselors that are here 24 hours to help somebody in need."

Shannon Schwarberg, the Open Access Coordinator, agreed. She works for Horizon and helps oversee the program.

"I think we're offering more resources and just different modalities for people to engage in treatment that hasn't been offered in the past," Schwarberg said.

For one, counselors are focused on "warm handoffs", which means a caller is transferred to a partner agency before ever hanging up the phone. For some, that may mean a detox facility; others may be connected with an outpatient care provider.

The Open Access Center is still looking for more providers to partner with throughout the 5-county region that's covered by the state grant -- Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties.

The other three counties in Western New York are part of the Finger Lakes region Open Access Center.

Part of Schwarberg's job is to follow up with patients within 24 or 48 hours of their initial call to the hotline.

"We're reconnecting and giving that patient another opportunity to get linked, and I think that's what's really special about this," she said.

Brandy Vandermark-Murray, vice president of Horizon Village, reminded 2 On Your Side that the opioid epidemic is still at crisis level.

"We still have people overdosing regularly through the week," Vandermark-Murray said. "We have people coming into treatment everyday asking for services still. It still is very much a crisis."

Anyone who needs help -- whether you're battling addiction or you're a family member of someone with a dependency -- can call the hotline 24 hours a day.

"There is hope," said Morrison. "There is help, one phone call away."

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