Heroin forum recognizes increasing trend
PENN YAN--More than 100 residents attended the Penn Yan community forum on heroin held in the academy auditorium Tuesday, Sept. 30. During the forum, several speakers ranging from law enforcement officials to former heroin addicts addressed their experiences with the drug, stating it is already an issue in the community.
"It concerns me that heroin has found its way into our community," said Mike Ballard of the Council on Alcoholism and Addiction.
Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike said at first he did not believe a small county like Yates would have a problem with a drug like heroin, but said recent trends seem to indicate otherwise.
"I never thought in my 23 years I would be standing in front of our community talking about heroin," Spike said. "But it's here in the community. It comes from [the] poppy plant, it is on the rise, cheap, addictive and deadly. You don't really have to say more than that."
Spike said heroin use has increased across the country, adding the problem is not unique to Yates County or Penn Yan. He said heroin use peaked in the 1970s, but said the recent trends are shifting away from pills and going to "Mexican brown" heroin as the most frequent choice in the county. The sheriff said the substance can be either snorted, smoked or injected, adding as a user's tolerance increases, so does the dosage they need to use to get the same effects. Spike said the price for a "micro baggie" can be as low as $10, adding part of the reason heroin use is on the rise is due to its low cost.
"It cuts across the whole spectrum of society," Spike said. "If it doesn't go checked, it will turn into an epidemic. [...] Deaths by heroin are exceeding deaths by car accidents."
Spike showed several slides of statistics addressing heroin related reports his department responded to since January of this year, listing at least 30 incidents. He said the sixth and latest heroin related death in the county since 2012 happened Sunday, Sept. 27 in Jerusalem.
Former Penn Yan Academy graduate and NFL running back Tony Collins also spoke on his experiences with drugs at the forum, saying while he never used heroin, he knows what it is like to be addicted to drugs. He said it is all about the choices people make, adding there are usually not bad kids, but more good kids who make bad choices. Collins said it is important to surround yourself with good people and positive thoughts as a way to avoid falling into situations that would encourage drug use.
"We are in a different time right now, and we have to get our kids thinking the right things and saying the right things, because then they are going to start doing the right things," Collins said. "We are going to make this happen. We are going to stop this. I truly believe it, but it's going to take everybody to do it."