Community gathers to discuss opioid crisis
YATES COUNTY--Concerned residents met with local officials in the Penn Yan middle school, Tuesday, Oct. 24 to hear more about the crisis with opioid drugs. A similar meeting was held at Dundee Central School Thursday, Oct. 26.
Sheriff Ron Spike began the evening with a presentation on the current state of the problems his department was facing in the fight against drugs.
In Penn Yan, Spike said, "Opioid abuse is an unprecedented epidemic. It is the number one cause of death for people under 50 years of age. Here in Yates County we have had 20 deaths in the last four years from overdoses. The Penn Yan police and our office have seen it as powder coming in small plastic baggies out of the cities into the rural areas. What happens in Rochester will happen here. Most of the drugs in this area come down from Rochester. The last few deaths we've seen have been heroin with fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than regular heroin. A lethal dose of fentanyl is only as big as a few grains of sand. In 2016, there were 44 overdoses that law enforcement was aware of--of those, the average age was 28. The youngest was 13 years old who took some oxycontin pills, the oldest was 56. In 2017, we've had 15 overdoses and four deaths. We're also concerned about meth labs, we just arrested two people this morning in Dundee."
Public Health Director for Yates County, Deb Minor, said, "In 2013, New York state started a program called the Opioid Overdose Prevention Program. This program is designed to provide training to those who may encounter someone who has overdosed and provide a medication called Naloxone. It does not prevent an overdose. It is an emergency medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose. I view it similar to giving CPR to someone who has had a heart attack, Naloxone provides an opportunity for the individual to receive treatment. Here in Yates County we began this program in 2014 with law enforcement, fire fighters and correction officers. In 2015 we began to offer the training to all community members. To date, we have held 33 trainings and trained over 400 people and provided over 500 Naloxone kits. Since 2014, 25 law enforcement individuals have administered Naloxone and out of those 25 times, 19 have been successful in rescuing the individual and allowing an opportunity for them to receive treatment."
The final speaker Tuesday evening was District Attorney Valerie Gardner.
"This problem reaches us in so many ways, not just the fatalities but the addiction itself," Gardner said. "We should all look back on what we've experienced as a community. The consequences are grave, but the most grave are the impacts that it's had on our loved ones and our families. The best community lesson we have is to be smart, don't start. If you find a syringe laying around, if you see something you suspect to be drugs--don't touch it, please call law enforcement. If you have leftover prescriptions, please dispose of them properly or take advantage of our drug take-back program. If you do have an issue, please don't wait to see me in court because we have a lot of good services here. Please reach out, get help, we all want to support you to keep our community healthy. If you look around the auditorium tonight you will see seven heart-shaped balloons. That is the number of lives lost in our community since Jan. 1, 2016 from opioid overdoses."
Gardner called for a moment of silence to remember the losses faced from the opioid epidemic. The audience bowed their heads and remained silent for a minute as all eyes looked at the balloons representing the lives lost to overdoses.
Other speakers included Jose Delfi, peer advocate for the Finger Lakes Addiction Counseling Referral Agency (FLACRA), Lyn Seaward (also with FLACRA) and Idelle Dillon, prevention educator for the Council on Alcoholism.