Grieving sister: ‘Her drug of choice was just numbness’

[anvplayer video=”5185643″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y – The stories of drug addiction can seem never-ending. Nationally, the number of deaths involving an opioid continues to climb.

Just last year in Monroe County, 604 people overdosed, and 128 of them died.

Seven years ago, three people saw the drug problem in our city, and wanted to do something about it. They started Gates to Recovery to help anyone they could.

“It’s weird because I’m now older than my older sister,” Shanna Baritot, who lost her sister to addiction said.

Shanna knew her sister, Malika had a problem with addiction from a young age.

“Her drug of choice was just numbness. It didn’t matter what it was or what form it came in, it was just numbness,” Shanna said.

Shanna says her sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia at the age of 14.

There was always talk about getting clean, but Malika ended up hospitalized with a 109 degree fever due to an abscess from her drug use.

“And, I didn’t even know that was possible because I remember when my boys were babies, and 104, and now you’re looking at a seizure and oh my gosh,” Shanna said.

Malika died on June 5, 2018. She was just 43 years old.

Malika’s photo is now one of dozens on a van used by Gates to Recovery.

“I don’t want anybody to be forgotten, and I don’t want to put any more on the van if I can help it. But, it’s coming to the point where we have to buy another van,” Director of Gates to Recovery Randy Cimino said.

The group connects people to detox and rehab, and is hoping to build its own place.

“It’s going to be a long-care facility that focuses specifically on mental health and life skills,” Cimino said.

Cimono says the need for resources is only growing because of the availability of fentanyl, which is up to 50 times stronger than heroin. 

“Mental health is our issue. If we don’t address the issues, we can’t possibly stop the overdoses,” Cimino said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, below is a list of resources where you can find help:

Gates to Recovery here or call Randy Cimino at 585-622-1055

Delphi Rise here or call 585-467-2230

URMC Addiction Services here or call 585-275-3161

Hunter Doyle here or call 585-325-5100

Helio Health here or 585-287-5622

If you’re in an emergency, please call 911.

If you’re having a mental health emergency, please call 988.