MOUNT MORRIS, N.Y., Sept. 26, 2023 — Pharmaceutical companies that made and sold opioid painkillers will pay more than $50 billion in settlement funds to state and local governments throughout the country over the next 18 years.
A portion of these funds are earmarked for Livingston County where late last year, County Health Department officials consulted with members of the community to determine how these dollars would be best spent to combat the opioid crisis locally. Among the recommendations identified during these community discussions was the need to make peer recovery support services available to County residents. Peer support services let individuals use their own experiences to offer help and support to those in similar situations. Health Department officials decided the time was right to establish a Youth Peer Advocate position to support and give a voice to adolescents throughout Livingston County, said Kristen Fisher, Livingston County’s Director of Community Services.
“Youth in particular face numerous challenges and often don't have supportive individuals in their lives who can assist with managing difficult emotions or provide aid to getting needs met. This may lead to uncomfortable and unnecessary interactions with school administration, crisis services, child protective agencies and law enforcement,” explained Fisher. “Youth peers provide support via lived experience and valuable education on self-advocacy. A youth voice has been missing from the decision making process within our mental health service system, and we anticipate that this youth advocate will bring that perspective to our discussions.”
To make this new position a reality, Livingston County is partnering with Hillside, a provider of community-based services, education, and residential treatment, which aims to make a positive impact on lives in partnership with youth and families who have experienced trauma. Hillside will use these opioid settlement funds to recruit a dedicated, full-time Youth Peer Advocate to serve the County’s adolescent population. This youth advocate will play a crucial role in empowering individuals to articulate their goals and advocate for their needs effectively as they transition into adulthood. The appointed advocate will provide a youth voice on relevant County committees and treatment team meetings, ensuring that decisions are informed and guided by those receiving services.
"Youth Peer Advocates serve a unique role in the treatment process, thanks to lived experience that allows them to connect on a different level with youth and families in care,” said Maria Cristalli, President & CEO of Hillside. “Hillside is pleased to partner with Livingston County in bringing this innovative role to our ongoing work with the youth and families we serve.”
For more on how Livingston County will use opioid settlement dollars to expand and enhance the County’s service system, visit the Livingston County Department of Health Opioid Settlement Information page.
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About Livingston County:
Founded in 1821, Livingston County, N.Y., is comprised of more than 61,000 residents in 17 towns located across 631 square miles of the Finger Lakes region.