Finch Welcomes HEAL To Albany for Meetings, Presentation of Emotional Installation
This week, Assemblyman Gary D. Finch (R,C,I-Springport) welcomed leaders from the Heroin Epidemic Action League (HEAL) to the Capitol to meet his legislative colleagues and present their mobile awareness installation in the busy hallway between the capitol and the legislative office building.
Hundreds of elected officials, staffers, lobbyists and activists representing an array of statewide advocacy groups walked through HEAL’s powerful exhibit, featuring portraits of people who succumbed to heroin and opiate addiction imposed on wooden grave stones. Many included moving biographies shared by family members who want to raise awareness and prevent other families from enduring tragedy.
“I think it’s important for policymakers to understand that these are real people with real stories- that they had big dreams, loving families and bright futures,” said Finch. “It’s incredibly powerful. I don’t know of a better way to convince my colleagues that our response to this crisis has to be decisive and compassionate. I can’t thank the members of HEAL enough for making this trip to Albany.”
HEAL co-founder Kevin Jones developed the traveling exhibit with his brother following the death of his step-daughter, Jessica Gentile.
“It started out with Jessica’s picture and one hundred gravestones. So many people have wanted to share their loved one’s stories, too. We’ve taken the exhibit to colleges. We’ve traveled to high schools. We’re raising awareness that addiction is a disease, and that a compassionate response that invests in real, effective treatment and follow-up care makes more sense for everyone than spending resources on treatment programs that amount to half-measures or incarcerating addicts who could regain control of their lives and be productive,” said Jones.
Finch and the representatives discussed their legislative priorities, including expanding and strengthening treatment options for Medicaid recipients.
“Advocates are telling us that Medicaid recipients are being ushered out of facilities after a couple of weeks of treatment, and they’re telling us it isn’t enough time,” said Finch. “They’re on the front lines. They’re family members who are watching loved ones battle this. Why spend the resources on just fourteen days of treatment if we aren’t seeing a high success rate? Why spend the resources on just fourteen days of treatment if that individual is likely to relapse? We need to realize that emergency room visits, emergency response calls and incarceration are all outcomes that cost taxpayers in the end. Comprehensive treatment isn’t just the right, compassionate thing to do, it makes sense. Society pays either way. I want to use the rest of this legislative session to continue talking to advocates and my colleagues so we can do this right.”
In recent years, Finch has voted to require insurance companies to cover more detoxification and recovery treatment and has been a consistent advocate for investing more state resources in treatment facilities.
“By partnering with groups like HEAL, we’ve been able to do more than we ever have in the past because they’ve engaged the public and educated public officials. While I’m pleased that we’ve made progress, I know how much more work we have to do. We’re going to keep fighting,” said Finch.