LANSING, N.Y.—In the parking lot of an unassuming building with a brick facade, located off North Triphammer Road in the Village of Lansing, a crowd gathered to celebrate the near completion of a years-long effort: the building behind them is a soon-to-open detox center.
It will operate 24/7, filling a regional gap in the continuum of services that help people struggling with addiction and substance abuse start their road to recovery. Anyone who needs to will be able to go to the 40 bed center and receive medical treatment and counseling. The facility will be operated by the Alcohol and Drug Council of Tompkins County, a nonprofit which has been providing counseling and addiction treatment for almost six decades.
Standing in the crowd with government and healthcare officials were families that had lost someone to substance abuse, some of which had contributed funding to help get the detox center built, like the Giordanos.
Joe Giordano said he lost his son, Guy Giordano, in December 2017 after he had been ten months sober in a 10 year battle with an opioid addiction. It was that winter when an emotional episode led him to relapse, leading to a fatal overdose.
“He was right there. He was clean,” said Joe.
The Giordianos wanted to turn the loss into action, and donated money to seed the fund that would grow to pay for the development of the detox center. While there are rehab services locally, like Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services, when the time had come that Guy wanted to get sober, Joe said there was no local option available for him to detox.
“There was no place to go locally so we had to go to Conifer Park in Schenectady. And I’ve been able to work with a lot of other people getting sober, and it’s like — where do I take them?”
Since Guy has passed, Joe said he’s watched as overdose deaths have climbed in the country.
“It’s like big dikes are blowing and all we can put are little plugs in,” said Joe.
Over 106,000 people were recorded to have died in drug-related overdose deaths nationwide in 2021, compared to around 70,000 in 2017, according to data from the Center for Disease Control reviewed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Preliminary data on drug related deaths appear to have 2022 keeping pace with 2021.
But speaking about the detox center, Joe said, “This is a big plug. This center is a big plug in the dike in Tompkins and all the surrounding counties.”
Capital funding and support for the development of the detox center came from Tompkins County, the New York State Department of Health, and the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, which will be continuing to support the facility with an annual commitment of $600,000.
One figure at the head of the charge to bring a detox center to Tompkins County was Angela Sullivan, the Alcohol and Drug Council’s Executive Director. The center being on the cusp of opening marks a crowning achievement in her 12 years as head of the organization, but also marks the end of her tenure. On Wednesday, she announced her retirement during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“This is the launch of an amazing new thing here,” Sullivan told the crowd, “It is also the time where me thinking about what is next for the Alcohol and Drug Council, I will actually be stepping back from my role as Executive Director.”
Sullivan announced that Stacy Cangelosi, who has been with the Alcohol and Drug Council for over 20 years, will be stepping in as interim Executive Director while the Board of Directors undergoes a formal search for a replacement.
“After learning, growing, and leading here for so long, this is my second home, this is where I’ve been in tough times and good times,” Cangelosi told the crowd.
Sullivan told The Ithaca Voice, “We’ve had a succession plan in place for a long time and quite honestly we kept saying ‘When detox is done,’ and we’re here.”
“Stacy has a long legacy of leadership and a great understanding of the field so she’ll really be able to move it forward. Just for me, it was time. Twelve years is a long time in these roles,” Sullivan said.
The challenge ahead, though, is finding nurses for the facility. Sullivan said that in order for the facility to open, the Alcohol and Drug Council will need to hire, ideally, six, or at least five Registered Nurses (RNs).
“It’s been all over the media already. There is a nursing shortage, and so we need six RNs so we can actually open the detox beds. We’ve been recruiting all over the place, we have just not yet been successful hiring any nurses,” said Sullivan.
Addressing the crowd on Wednesday, Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) said that he encountered some concern among his constituents at the prospect of the detox center coming into the Village of Lansing.
“But you know how you fix that? You sit down with those folks,” said Sigler. “Everyone here has been intimately impacted by drug abuse, by alcoholism and that’s why you’re here. But this is not a lonely crowd. We can go to any crowded place and most of the people have been impacted in some way. And I think that’s important to remember. The people that you’re trying to help are our mothers, our brothers, our sisters, our children. And that’s what you have to really get across to people and that’s what I think you were able to do with this facility.”