ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- A new resource to combat substance abuse is now officially open to the public.

The Open Access Clinic on University Avenue in Rochester offers immediate assessments and referrals for treatment to people suffering from addiction.

Anyone who comes to the clinic has an opportunity to get an open bed at a rehab facility. 

State officials say the innovative program is one example of how New York is ahead of the curve.

“This program will allow people to walk in whenever they need to, and it will also give the criminal justice system a diversion. We can’t incarcerate ourselves out of this," said Arlene Gonzalez- Sanchez, Commissioner of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. "If you go outside of New York State, and you look at programs, there’s no programs like these.”

People who come to the clinic seeking help for an addiction can meet with a peer advocate who has gone through a similar experience.

“They just have credibility and an empathy that really rings true to the people we’re trying to serve," said Carl Hatch-Feir, president of RecoveryNet and the Delphi Drug and Alcohol Council. "It’s relatively new in terms of the addiction field to have peers as part of staffing patterns, but it’s been incredibly well received.”

Peer advocates say a walk-in program with round-the-clock hours is incredibly beneficial.

“It’s really important for them to have somebody that really understands," said peer advocate Mark Johnson. "And as a peer with two years’ of sobriety, if they have an issue that they’re struggling with, it may be an issue I’ve been through, and here’s how I handled it.”

“There were times that I may have wanted to say, ‘Let me go in and stop right now,'" said peer advocate Vinne Williams. "But without access to a building I could just walk in and try to find a bed and get some help, my only alternative was to continue doing what I was doing. So it’s really important now to have open access where people can walk in and say, 'I’m tired, can you help me find a detox, can you help me find a rehab, can you help me find a way out?'"

The center plans to operate 24/7 by next year.