AUBURN, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Nick’s Ride 4 Friends is a nonprofit organization helping people struggling with addiction.
Founder and President, Joel Campagnola, has a clubhouse on South Street in Auburn. It’s a place for people to get connected with the resources and people they need to begin their recovery.
However, because of COVID-19, the clubhouse was closed until last week, cutting off that lifeline for nearly three months.
“We’re just watching the numbers because the last thing we at Nick’s Ride would want to do is hurt anybody by trying to help,” said Joel Campagnola, president and founder of Nick’s Ride 4 Friends.
Since the pandemic began, police reports show the City of Auburn has seen nearly 40 opioid overdoses and four overdose deaths. Two of those people were familiar faces at Nick’s Ride.
It’s a pattern Campagnola said he’s seeing, with many people relapsing or experiencing cravings during the pandemic.
“100 people a day walk through that door you know and then just one day not seeing them, that was very disheartening for me. Here we are supposed to be helping the community and now we gotta lock our doors on them and look at them through the glass and say, ‘Hey, you can’t come in,'” Campagnola said.
This is why as soon as he could, Campagnola opened the doors of the clubhouse last week. But it now looks different for those who come in.
It’s spaced differently to allow social distancing, everyone must wear a mask and get their temperature checked before they enter the door. They also have to use hand sanitizer before touching anything.
Since the clubhouse has been closed, most of Campagnola’s work from here on out will be outreach, trying to contact those he’s lost touch with. During the pandemic, they are offering virtual help for their friends, but many don’t have the technology.
“When things were really bad they would sit outside the window with their laptop or smartphone and we would interact with them like that or, whatever it took,” Campagnola said.
In the meantime, those who work for Nick’s Ride have still been taking part in peer services, responding with police on calls and connecting with people who may need help with recovery. Once they make that contact in the field, the peer can get that person into an inpatient or detox facility.
Eventually, they may get further treatment and then continue to stop by Nick’s Ride for more help plus connecting with those who have gone through the same process.
Campagnola said he’s seen a record number of people who need help during this time. Much of that he says started just three days after the kids stopped heading to school each day. Shortly after, Campagnola started to get calls from concerned parents who were noticing differences in their child’s mannerisms.
“A lot of good came out of this because we got a lot of people in recovery that didn’t know they needed it. we had a lot of young men and women admit to their parents and to me, that they were using and did not want to die,” Campagnola said.
The clubhouse will remain the same for now but Campagnola is opening a new facility just down the road on Chapel Street, expanding the nonprofit. That’s been delayed during the pandemic but the target date for opening is June 12th, 2021, in honor of his son’s birthday.
Nick Campagnola died in 2015 after a bag full of fentanyl and synthetic acid took his life. His dad opened this nonprofit in his name, hoping to lead recovery efforts for others.
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