GHENT—She found it surprising “how little people in the community understand alcohol and drug addictions,” and how uninterested they are in learning about it. When they have addictions in the family “they still may not want to acknowledge or talk about it,” said Beth Schuster, just before retiring from 43 years at Twin County Recovery Services (TCRS).
Since 2006 she has been executive director of TCRS, which provides a “variety of services related to helping people with substance abuse disorder,” Ms. Schuster said in an interview February 24.
Among these services are evaluation, counseling (individual and group), a 24-hour crisis hotline, and halfway housing, according to a TCRS brochure. The residential program, for people with chemical dependency, consists of a 13-bed house for men in Hudson and a 12-bed house for women in Catskill.
TCRS is a private, non-profit organization, but it operates according to guidelines from the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. It gets its clients—among other ways—via referrals by courts, parole boards and child protective services.
The best way to accomplish TCRS’s mission “is with strength and compassion,” Ms. Schuster said.
To start, “We don’t use the word ‘addict’ much,” she said. A current description is person with a substance abuse disorder.
Since its incorporation in 1974 the mission of TCRS has remained the same, but more and more clients now come with “identified mental health disorders,” at the same time as substance abuse disorders, Ms. Schuster said, adding that “almost nobody” abuses just one substance. This has been getting worse since opiates became more available over the last 10 years.
But the most abused drug in this county remains alcohol, she said and the number and the demographic profile of the clients has remained about the same, she said. So has the percent impacted by the law enforcement system.
‘We don’t use the word ‘addict’ much.’
Beth Schuster, ex. dir.
Twin Counties Recovery Services
What has changed, Ms. Schuster said, is that the state has changed the goal of recovery from “abstinence” to “harm reduction.” The philosophy of TCRS, according to its brochure, “teaches that recovery from chemical dependency is not only possible but that it should be within reach of all citizens of Columbia and Greene counties.”
But now, Ms. Schuster said, “the term recovery is different for everybody. It is how the individual defines it for themselves. For some, it means abstinence, for some it means reduced use,” for some it means “using substances on and off for the rest of their lives.”
Ms. Schuster said her best experience was both working with the TCRS staff and working “collaboratively” with the other agencies and community organizations. “It’s been great. I’m going to miss that,” she said.
“We have a really kind, dedicated, bright staff,” she said. “I really enjoy them.” There is, however, a sad dimension. About 50% of the staff are in recovery from substance abuse. And tragically several of them have “relapsed” and died from something related to their disorders.
Ms. Schuster’s first job with TCRS was community education. She learned about the job while on the job. “I had no idea I would end up here.”
At SUNY Brockport she had majored in music and minored in psychology.
Ms. Schuster’s replacement as TCRS executive director is Tina Lee, who comes from executive directorships at other organizations.
But with her retirement, Ms. Schuster, who has lived in Claverack about 35 years, will remain civically active. She is continuing to chair the Community Services Board and participate in the Columbia County Police Reform Panel.