A faith-based group in Buffalo is fighting the opioid epidemic by focusing its efforts on helping addicts who are struggling to get access to treatment.
Ricardo Caro was struggling with his addiction to opiates and kept getting sent home from ECMC while he was looking for treatment.
"I didn't get help the proper way," he said. "I spent like five days going to ECMC and they kept sending me home. It got to the point I had to tell them I was going to kill myself."
He and his wife Sonia were losing hope he'd be able to beat the illness when their pastor put them in touch with Gloria Sanchez, the founder of Recovery Key.
"That really touched me because nobody does this," Sonia Caro said. "Nobody cares for people that are addicted as much as [Sanchez] does."
Gloria Sanchez has been helping addicts since 2015 and Recover Key provides a variety of addiction recovery services. The organization provides linkage to treatment, housing assistance, referral services, support groups and Narcan training, along with several other services.
Sanchez helped Caro get a bed at an inpatient facility in Albany and he said he wouldn't have been able to get the treatment he needed without her help.
"Thanks to her I'm here and I found myself," Caro said. "I'm the same person that I used to be before when I was sober. If it wasn't for her I don't know what would have happened to me."
That's a similar story shared by other recovering addicts who turned to Recovery Key. Many, including Caro, volunteer with the organization to help others beat their addictions.
Ronald Ayala battled his heroin addiction for more than a decade. After moving to Buffalo from Puerto Rico, he didn't have family or friends to lean on and kept returning to the drug after many attempts to quit.
Recovery Key helped Ayala find the treatment he needed, but more importantly, provided him with a support system and place to stay when he returned from treatment so he could stay clean.
"I have the support and I have a place to stay," Ayala said. "I have the support and the love from [Sanchez] and from all the people that I didn't have before."
Many of the clients Recovery Key links to inpatient treatment have to travel to Albany or out of state, a reality Sanchez says indicates how the resources in WNY are not keeping up with the opioid epidemic.
"If every hospital of the city has detox beds, 2 or 3 detox beds, I guarantee you that I would fill them all," Sanchez explained.
Sanchez and Recovery Key connected 256 addicts to treatment in 2016, the vast majority of them had to travel out of Erie County.
Recovery Key doesn't currently receive any funding from New York State or Erie County, but accepts donations via GroupMe here. Sanchez says 100% of donations will go directly to services for addicts in WNY.
For more information about Recovery Key you can visit their Facebook page here, call (716) 390-4253 or email email@example.com.