By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
On Sept. 25 a few hundred people gathered to dedicate and bless Our Lady of Hope Grotto and the Garden of Hope located in Mount Sinai on the grounds of Little Portion Friary, a former Anglican Franciscan Monastery.
Historically, it was the site of the first Hope House founded in 1980. For more than four decades, Hope House Ministries has reached out to the most vulnerable among us. Presently, the heart of this social outreach is providing residential and outpatient services for those among us who are battling addiction.
This nontraditional residential treatment program for addictions is located on the grounds of the former monastery. Since beginning there five years ago, more than 600 men have reclaimed and transformed their lives.
The heroin and fentanyl epidemic is crippling our nation and our larger community. The Grotto and Garden of Hope have become a safe place for people to gather who have members in their family are struggling with addiction and for those growing number of families who have lost loved ones to this god-awful affliction.
The Garden of Remembrance has more than 120 crosses honoring those who have died in our larger community. Unfortunately, requests for crosses continue to come in every week.
The heroin and fentanyl epidemic continues to spiral out of control for number of reasons. We still attach a terrible stigma to people who battle addiction. Addicts and their families continue to struggle with shame and guilt which too often paralyzes those who need help from getting help.
Support services for addiction treatment is grossly inadequate. We need more detox beds, more residential treatment beds that provide more than 11 days of care, or outpatient treatment and more trained, licensed treatment professionals to provide counseling and support.
If you are uninsured or poorly insured, you don’t have a chance at quality treatment. The insurance industry seems to hold all the power and they know little or nothing about addiction and treatment for the chronic relapser and hard-core heroin addict.
Until we take the power out of the insurance companies’ hands and put it in the hands of treatment professionals, we’re going to continue to bury people that need not die. We need to draw on the evidence-based research for treatment if you want people to recover. Our insurance dollars need to be well spent. Look at the recidivism rate across the country. It is out of control and scandalous. We clearly need to do things differently.
As I write this column, a young man that I’ve worked with for more than 20 years since he was a teenager has overdosed. He is someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s cousin, someone’s father. He was doing extremely well over an extended period of time. He developed a successful business, owns his own home and is an active member in the recovery community. It took only a moment and a poor choice; now he is on life support fighting for his life.
Hope lives on and love remains!
Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.