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Region mourns the passing of Fr. Peter Young, known for removing the stigma of addiction

Dec 10, 2020 2:30 pm
Sean Mulkerrin is reporting for the Altamont Enterprise Father Peter Young, a Catholic priest who changed the way lawmakers and everyday people view addiction, and whose work would ultimately help thousands, died on Wed., Dec. 9, at the age of 90. When Young began his work in Albany’s South End in the 1950s, addiction, specifically alcoholism, was still a criminalized behavior. “The biggest thing I did was de-stigmatize,” he told the Altamont Enterprise many years ago. “I de-stigmatized addiction.”  He said in a 2008 interview that when he proved decriminalization was cost-effective he gained credibility. "That’s what enabled people to get help: When they no longer had to admit to being a criminal to attend Alcoholics Anonymous," Young said. In the 1980s,Young set up an Honor Court program to offer non-violent offenders who had committed alcohol- or drug-related crimes an opportunity to go to drug treatment instead of jail. He would go on to run 121 not-for-profit addiction treatment and rehabilitation programs that treated more than 18,000 people each day. Beyond treatment, he said, people needed housing and employment to recover. Public officials and residents of the Capital Region are mourning his passing. New York State Assemblymember Patricia Fahy called his death “heartbreaking news.” She wrote in an Instagram post, “Fr. Young was a legend and one of my true, true heroes in life. He wrote a book on addiction and taught us all how to treat those with substance abuse disorders — as human beings first.” Read more in the Altamont Enterprise.