Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at 4:33 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, news, Pike, heroin.

Richard Gargula, 34, of Pike, was charged Aug. 11 with: tampering with physical evidence, a Class E felony; two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, a Class A misdemeanor; and driving while ability impaired by drugs and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, both as misdemeanors. Following a traffic stop on Shearing Road, Gainesville, Gargula is accused of driving with a suspended license. During the stop he was asked to perform field sobriety testing, which he allegedly failed. Additionally, deputies say he was found to be in possession of suspected cocaine and heroin. After being evaluated by a drug recognition expert, who determined him to be impaired by multiple drug categories. Also during the stop, Gargula allegedly attempted to conceal evidence by getting out of his car and tossing suspected cocaine inside a nearby residence. He was arraigned in the Village of Warsaw Court and put in Wyoming County Jail on $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond. He is due in court at a later date.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at 5:12 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, news, Wethersfield, Bliss, heroin.

Wyoming County Sheriff’s deputies arrest four individuals with drug possession following a traffic stop in Wethersfield.

dayton_c._ewell_photo.jpg tami_a._unterburger_photo.jpg
   Dayton C. Ewell Tami A. Unterburger

Dayton C. Ewell, 25, and Tami A. Unterburger, 21, both of Bliss, and Nicolas A. O’Connor, 26, and Ruth M. O’Connor, 37, both of Caneadea, were arrested May 15 for heroin possession. 

They were all charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument, and criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree. 

ruth_m._oconnor_photo.jpg nicolas_a._oconnor_photo.jpg
   Ruth O'Connor Nicolas A. O'Connor

Ruth O'Connor, the driver, was also ticketed for failure to keep right. 

Wyoming County Sheriff’s deputies say the suspects were stopped after deputies saw the vehicle weaving into the oncoming lane while traveling on Route 362. 

During the stop, deputies allegedly recovered three glassine bags containing heroin, nine glassine bags with heroin residue, two used hypodermic syringes, seven unused hypodermic syringes, and other miscellaneous drug paraphernalia items. 

They are all due in the Town of Wethersfield Court June 6.

Friday, March 10, 2017 at 6:09 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, Perry, heroin, opioids, education, drugs.



The pain in Avi Israel’s voice was evident as he described his son Michael’s spiraling decent into addiction and subsequent death. 

“Michael died at 20 years old. You see, my son suffered from Crohn’s disease. It was very painful for him. When he was 18, he was prescribed narcotics to deal with the pain, the Xanax was to help him cope with anxiety issues, as well as various other drugs for depression,” Israel said. “The medical community didn’t really know too much about addiction back then… Not a day that goes by…that I don’t miss my kid.”

Students from Perry Central School – seventh through 12th grade –  sat in rapt attention earlier this week as Israel spoke of his son and his struggle with addiction. The program was sponsored by Perry Rotary Club, with the support of the Perry Police Department, and the Wyoming County District Attorney’s Office. 

“We have a safety committee and the chief (Perry PD) gave us information about the statistics of opioid use,” said Middle/High School Principal Becky Belkota. “And we’ve seen the articles and the like, and it’s something we want to get ahead of…prevention as oppose to reaction. We wanted to give an insight to addiction, not just heroin.”

The question is asked: “How many of you know someone who died because of addiction?” 

The majority of students in attendance raised their hands.

“Addiction is how you get there (dead). If you’re aware of the pitfalls; maybe you’ll be a little more cautious.

“There has been a four-fold increase in addiction since 1999. When you think of an addict or a junkie, what do you think of?… You may think of the dirty strung-out man hanging out on a street corner… Does my son look like that to you?… Addiction doesn’t discriminate.”

Opioids are a prescription form of heroin, Israel says, and “said to be more intense than heroin.”

“It’s a selfish addiction. You may be doing it to yourself, but you are hurting everyone else. There are more than 100,000 tombstones related to opioid deaths in this country.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999…From 1999 to 2015, more than 183,000 people have died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids.”

Today, nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths nationwide involve a prescription opioid. More than 15,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2015, the most recent data available.

Between November and December Perry law enforcement has responded to four heroin/opioid overdoses. All were saved by using Narcan, which is the brand name for the generic drug naloxone, which is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdoses. (Intravaneously, it works in two minutes and when injected into muscle, it works within five minutes.)

However, in the last year, the village has one confirmed death due to overdose, Police Chief Mike Grover says. Just recently there were three overdoses in Perry. In all three of the incidents naloxone was administered. In two of the incidents, the victim was revived. In the third incident, the victim was unable to be saved. The irony of these three victims, two of the overdoses happened to the same person in the span of a week. During the second overdose, he succumbed to the drugs.

In Warsaw, Chief of Police Pete Hoffmeister says there have been 10 overdoses in the past year, with two ending up in deaths. While naloxone was used to save eight of those who overdosed, two were dead before law enforcement arrived. Of those 10, two were in September, two in October, and two in December – as of Dec. 30. The youngest person they encountered was 17 years old and the oldest 55.

Nationwide, every 17 minutes someone dies from an opioid overdose. About two years ago, there were 100 deaths in Erie County. In 2015, it more than doubled. In 2016, that number could reach over 500. That’s about 10 per week. February alone recorded 23 overdose deaths in just one week.

In Wyoming County, between 2010 and 2014 the number of opioid-related emergency department admissions increased 47.6 percent – 42 and 62. The number of opioid-related inpatient hospital admissions rose from 61 to 91 respectively – a 49.2-percent increase. 

During that same time period, those who were admitted for treatment for any opioid in Western New York was 7,679 in 2010. By 2014, the number of people seeking treatment rose by almost a third – 10,154 – a 32-percent increase.

Across the state, those in treatment for heroin use was 55,900 in 2010; in 2014, the number was 77,647. Deaths across the state due to heroin overdose increased 163 percent (215 in 2008, and 637 in 2013) and opioid overdoses increased 30 percent (763 to 952).

Six years ago, Wyoming County didn’t see a heroin issue in the county as much as today. Deputies say they’ve dealt with the drug 30 to 35 times in 2016. The county saw five deaths related to heroin overdoses and 26 overdose incidents law enforcement knows about that are from opioids.

“If this was the flu, we’d all be under quarantine,” Israel said. “Since it’s not the flu, people look at those who are addicts as…they did it to themselves.

“When you think of the word addict, what comes to mind? Someone sleeping in the street? A loser? Those who have lost someone…did they look like losers? They are not the picture of what addiction looks like today.”

Israel says roughly 10 percent of people have an addiction. A misnomer is that to be an addict, one had to use every day. An addict is when you do use, you have difficulty controlling it.

“You don’t have to have cravings to have an addiction,” Israel said. “Addiction isn’t about how easy it is to use. It’s how easy it is to stop.”

Michael suffered with a lot of pain because of Crohn's disease, which is commonly found at the end of the small intestine where it joins the beginning of the large intestine, is when the digestive or gastrointestinal tract is chronically inflamed.The first prescription he was given for pain relief was hydrocodone – an addictive narcotic, especially to a young person, Israel says.

“In 2010, Michael told me he was addicted to his pain pills. In January 2011, we went to the doctor and he told them he was an addict. They told him they had it under control… Michael died June 4, 2011. It took six months before Michael died. That’s how quick an addiction can grab you. He couldn’t kick his habit. He couldn’t let go. I kept asking him…'Michael, why don’t you just quit?’ "

Israel cautions the students, telling them an addiction at their age is “deadly and it’s your life.” 

“Your brain is still developing…It’s like combining peanut butter and jelly and stirring it all together then trying to separate it. It doesn’t happen.”

According to officials, you may be more prone to addiction if you have a family history of addiction. But family history and genetics do not negate the company you keep. 

“Addiction robbed me of my kid,” Israel said. “I blame myself… partly because I didn’t know enough about addiction. I knew everything about Crohn’s disease. But I didn’t know about addiction… It robs you of everything you hold dear; everything you love goes away. Your friends – when you start acting like a jerk – will go away. Your family starts not inviting you to get-togethers.

“Micheal came up to me one time; he needed a hug. I found it hard because I just thought he was destroying our family. It wasn't because I didn't love him. It's because I didn't understand his addiction.”

When your brain only focuses on one thing you become incapable of making even the simplest decisions, Israel says. Once you get into this kind of addiction it doesn't let go. The only escape is to use again, but you fall deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. And sometimes, you lose the fight.

“I can't stress how important it is to not start with anything. Don't give into peer pressure. I cannot impress upon you how painful it is to lose someone you love. It is one of the worst pains I have ever experienced. And still feel.

“I miss my son so bad it keeps me up at night. The pain just cuts me like a knife. Think of that pain you'd inflict to your parents if something happened to you. My three daughters miss their brother. They don't talk very much about it. At the holidays there is always an empty seat. He will never be there anymore. 

“You have the option of saying no to heavy painkillers. You can say you are OK with taking just a Tylenol. Once you start it grabs you and pulls you down so fast; you may think you have it under control, but you really don't unless you get help.”

Israel says the fear addicts have is the fear of withdrawal. It’s akin to having the flu…”only one hundred times worse.”

“What I wanted to impress on you is what addiction does to you and your family and how severe it is today and the pain it leaves behind,” Israel said. 

“I’m a little worried about upcoming surgery and medications after,” said Perry Sophomore Chelsea Pascoe. “It definitely impacted us to just stay clear.

“We are told a lot about what would happen (if you become addicted) but we saw, sort of firsthand on what it will do… And when he found his son, I don't know how you'd cope with something like that.”

“You don't see it very often… the story (of addiction),” said Freshman Russ Johnson. “You hear about it, but you never really get to see how it affects the families and see what happens… I want to be the one that just stays clean. It's who I am. I want it to mean something to me. It's important.”

“I’m not whole because I miss someone really bad. I hope you never have to go through it,” Israel said.

For more information on Michael story and addiction, visit savethemichaels.org.

For resources on addiction and recovery in Wyoming County visit Recovery.org or Spectrum Human Services or Smart Recovery of Warsaw.





Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 11:26 am
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, Arcade, heroin, opioids, overdose, news.
      Rene M. Sliwa

An Arcade woman was arrested Jan. 24 in connection with an overdose at a North Street, Arcade, residence.

Rene M. Sliwa, 29, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of criminal nuisance in the second degree. 

Police officials say a woman (not Sliwa) was brought to the Village Office in the afternoon of Jan. 23 for a suspected overdose. Officers were able to revive the woman through CPR. Approximately 11 hours later, the same victim was again brought to the Village Office for a suspected overdose, at which time officers were able to revive again.

Through investigation, a search warrant was obtained for the North Street home, where Sliwa was a renter, subsequently resulting in her arrest.

She was put in Wyoming County Jail in lieu of $2,000 cash bail and is due in Arcade Village Court at a later date.

Police officials say other charges are pending.

Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 8:55 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, drugs, heroin, news, Warsaw.

While as tackling the heroin and opioid issue that has gripped New York State takes on a multifaceted approach, the Health departments of Wyoming, Genesee and Orleans counties have teamed up to form an Opioid Task Force in an effort to find common-sense practices to address the problem.

During Tuesday’s Wyoming County Board of Supervisors meeting in Warsaw, Public Health Director Gregory Collins gave a half-hour-long presentation on the topic. He highlighted how the crisis came about, along with current treatments available.

“At the moment we are in the midst of what turned into a heroin epidemic,” Collins said. “Years ago it was thought of as a ‘living on the streets type of drug,’ but it’s turned into so much more than that.”

“What we are finding statewide is to develop solutions locally is that sometimes when you don’t have a lot of resources at your disposal you sit down with those who are invested in this and come up with creative sensible solutions that are real,” said Public Health Administrator Laura Paolucci. “We don’t have a task force around this issue, but we have a lot of people paying close attention to it because it is heart rendering.

“While we have some scarcity of resources in the county, we started aligning some of our prevention efforts with Genesee and Orleans counties because we are similarly sized and there is one city between the three of us and it’s Batavia, so we started doing some planning and prevention things.”

There are several factors that created the opiate epidemic that not only plagues Wyoming County but the state and nation as well. It was an evolutionary process that spans two decades.

As Dr. Collins put it, it was a “combination that created a perfect storm.”

On one hand are the clinicians who are the on the front lines trying to do the right thing and alleviate the pain their patients feel. But they are not the crux of the issue, Collins says.

The second aspect is the pharmaceutical companies, who do play a big role in this and “moved the crisis forward.”

The regulatory bodies such at the Joint Commission, who oversees the hospitals, and the CMS (Center for Medicaid/Medicare Services), both of which have taken pain and turned it into the “fifth vital sign.” They have tied treating patients pain and tied it into a means of judging performance levels – how well is a patient's pain treated.

And finally, the patients themselves, who oftentimes have unrealistic expectations of how pain should be managed.

Collins told the audience that we get into problems because of the pain/pleasure receptors – called MU receptors – in the brain. Opiates bind to these MU receptors to control pain, but they also stimulate the pleasure receptors. If you aren’t using the drugs (Lortab, hydrocodone) for pain, they make you feel really good. However, too much stimulation of these receptors can cause an overdose at which time the respiratory system shuts down.

As a way to manage the overprescribing of opiates for pain, New York State set up the iStop program, or electronic monitoring of prescription narcotics. A person can no longer “doctor shop” to get an opiate to maintain their addiction.

“So now the people who ‘need’ the drug for their addiction can no longer get it… and drug dealers, being the entrepreneurs they are, flooded the streets with heroin, which has now taken the place of prescription medication because it’s available and cheap. There are many people among us who are functioning and living normal lives …who are using heroin just to live a normal life.”

This happens because over a period of time and use, the brain will “rewire” itself, dismissing the natural production of dopamine which is akin to an opiate stimulant. Think of it as a “runner’s high,” the feel-good feeling after you do something you enjoy doing.

However, heroin isn’t packed into a nice clean pill form where you know what you are getting. An addict knows just how much it takes of the drug to make them feel good. Nowadays, an addict can get a bag of heroin and not really know what is actually in the product.

“The most common drug heroin is ‘cut’ with is fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than heroin. So when an addict, who thinks they are getting just heroin, buys the drug that is laced with fentanyl, they are actually getting a more concentrated substance, which in turn is causing overdoses.”

In an effort to “keeping people alive long enough” for them to get the help they need to overcome their addiction, the opiate blocker naloxone was developed. 

Naloxone has a stronger “attracting” component to MU receptors than opioids, thus blocking the receptors and “pushing” the heroin from the receptors. Essentially, it will throw an overdose victim into immediate withdrawal. At this point, there has to be other services in place for the addict to get the help they need to work toward recovery. 

There are several treatments available to addicts to help them get through the physical withdrawals of heroin. However, for an addict to truly get clean, not only do they have to want it, but there also has to be supporting treatment available and in place immediately to get them through the process of becoming sober.

“We draw our mental health partners in on this because they really are the experts in mental health,” Paolucci said. “We are launching a task force from all different sectors from all three counties to start leveraging best practices.”

“Right now, we don’t have enough treatment to give it to all the people who need it,” Collins said. “This is one of the issues that (the Opioid Task Force) is going to be focused on.”

One of the treatments include methodone, a medication administered by a physician on site with the patient being closely monitored.

Methodone is a straight opiate that is long acting. It helps get the addict keep the physical and psychological withdrawal to a minimum, but is administered under direct observed therapy. Currently, there are only two treatment facilities close to Wyoming County that administers methodone – one in Buffalo and the other in Rochester. There is one in the works for Batavia as well.

Another treatment is the drug Suboxone, which can be prescribed through a doctor's office, however, there are currently only two subscribers in the county, one being the rehabilitation facility Spectrum. This medication goes into the MU receptor and partially causes some of the opiate effect, but also blocks things like heroin from working. While Dr. Collins says it is good to use in some ways, by itself is not the answer. Again, the patient needs the support to get the other components of addiction under control. 

A third medication is Vivitrol. This once-a-month shot blocks the MU receptors completely, so if an opiate is taken, it won’t have an effect on the person. Currently, this is used on the jail side of the crisis after the person has been “put through” withdrawal. It’s an aid to help reintegrate the offender back into society without going back to negative influences.

Right now, the use of naloxone to prevent an overdose death is a kind of “Band-Aid” in the overall grand scheme of the crisis. 

“You really have to take the mindset that addiction is a chronic disease and these medications are to help get the person through so they can make the necessary changes to get their life back on track. It has to be thought of like taking any other medication for any other chronic illness.”

The creation of the Opioid Task Force is another rung on the ladder of combatting an issues that affects everyone in the community. The group will hold its first meeting from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, at the Genesee County Health Department, 3837 W. Main St., Batavia.

For more information on the meeting RSVP to KVoos@co.genesee.ny.us or call the Wyoming County Health Department at (585) 786-8890.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 6:37 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, heroin, Perry, Wyoming County Court, drugs.
   Bradley Broadbent

A 37-year-old former Batavia man was found guilty on drug charges following a three-day jury trial in Wyoming County Court earlier today. 

Bradley J. Broadbent is guilty of one count each of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree.

The charges stem from the Wyoming County Drug Task Force Operation Spring Sweep arrest of Broadbent in June.

However, his criminal activity started much earlier, beginning with an arrest in July 2012 in Genesee County. At that time he was indicted on three counts of criminal mischief in the fourth degree, criminal trespass, burglary in the second degree, and petit larceny.

In February last year he was charged with false personation, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, criminal use of drug paraphernalia and possession of hypodermic needles, following a traffic stop on Route 33, Stafford.

The June arrest was the result of a Jan. 14 possession and sale of 13 bags of heroin laced with the horse tranquilizer Xylazine. The sale was made to a confidential informant in the Village of Perry.

Also in June, Broadbent was arrested by the Genesee County Local Drug Enforcement Task Force on charges stemming from an April 24 incident in the Genesee County Jail. 

Broadbent allegedly smuggled heroin into the jail where he then was accused of selling a portion of the drug to Ryan M. Bobzin, 27, of Bergen. Both men were in jail at the same time on unrelated charges.

In December, he was indicted on those charges – criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, a Class B felony; criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a Class B felony; and promoting prison contraband in the first degree, a Class D felony. 

Following today’s verdict, Broadbent was jailed without bail in the Wyoming County Jail. 

“Today’s convictions represent just one small measure of District Attorney Donald O’Geen’s resolute and concentrated efforts to combat the scourge of heroin and other opioids in Wyoming County,” said Wyoming County Assistant District Attorney Eric Schiener. “Thanks to the commitment and dedication of both the Drug Task Force and District Attorney O’Geen, there is now one less purveyor of this poison on the streets of Perry.”

Due to his “significant” criminal history, both of these Class B felony convictions could potentially result in a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and three years post-release supervision for Broadbent. 

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 23.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 10:48 am

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C- I, Elma) says measures to help New Yorkers battling heroin and opioid addiction, ensure access to benefits that help veterans and infants, protect consumers, and increase government transparency are among the new laws that take effect in January. 

Other changes being enacted in the New Year include several road safety measures, new and extended tax cuts, and measures to increase breast cancer screenings and organ donation registration.

“This important legislation will benefit consumers, assist our veterans, support New York’s farmers and better protect public health and safety,” Gallivan said. “Changes in New York tax law will also benefit small business and make it easier for families to save for college.”

Protecting public health

Tackling heroin and opioid addiction: Most of the provisions of the legislation passed to address the state’s ongoing heroin and opioid abuse crisis took effect when signed into law in June. However, several important provisions of the laws will become effective with health insurance policies and contracts issued, renewed, modified, altered or amended on or after Jan. 1, including:

    • S8139 – Ending prior insurance authorization for immediate access to inpatient treatment services; co-sponsored by Gallivan;

    • S8137  – Using consistent criteria to determine the medical necessity of treatments; co-sponsored by Gallivan;

    • S8137 – Authorizing emergency substance use disorder medication coverage by requiring insurance coverage, without prior authorization, for an emergency five-day supply of medications for treating a substance use disorder when emergency conditions exist;

    • S8137 – Expanding access to naloxone/opioid reversal medication coverage by requiring insurance coverage for the overdose reversal medication, whether it is prescribed to a person who is addicted to opioids or their family member covered under the same insurance plan;

  • Improving infant coverage under Child Health Plus (CHP): S6421A – A new law updates the state’s Public Health Law to ensure that newborns are covered retroactively under the CHP program. Newborns were not eligible under the previous requirements of CHP for periods lasting up to 30 days after enrollment. Starting in January, newborns will be covered going back to the first day of their birth month;
  • Encouraging New Yorkers to Become Organ Donors: S6952A – Starting Jan. 1, New Yorkers will be offered an additional opportunity to document their decision to enroll as an organ and tissue donor. All applicants for health insurance offered through the state health benefit exchange will be provided space during the application process to register for the Donate Life Registry for organ, eye, and tissue donations;
  • Promoting Breast Cancer Screening: S8093 – To further encourage and ensure access to regular screening and early detection, a new law allows New York City public employees to take up to four hours of excused leave per year for breast cancer screening. This will give them the same opportunity to get screened as public employees in the rest of the state. 

Support for veterans

    • Hire-A-Vet tax credit: The 2016-17 budget extended the tax credit from Jan. 1 to Jan. 1, 2019. The period of eligible employment for qualified veterans is also extended from Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2018. 

The credit is provided to any business that hires a veteran, on a full-time basis for at least one year, returning home from military service. It is equal to 10 percent of wages paid, with a maximum of $5,000 per veteran. The credit increases to 15 percent of wages if the veteran is also disabled, with a maximum of $15,000 per disabled veteran.

    • S7983B – Ensuring veterans receive the benefits to which they’re entitled: Legislation was enacted to require local Social Services districts and not-for-profit agencies that receive state funding to ask as to whether a person, or any member of his or her family, has served in the U.S. military, when applying for Social Services. If so, they would be provided with contract information for the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs in order to ensure that the individual is receiving all of the benefits to which he or she is entitled. 

Support for farmers

Farm Workforce Retention tax credit: The 2016-17 budget included provisions to allow eligible farm employers to claim a refundable tax credit for each farm employee that is employed for 500 or more hours each year for tax years beginning on Jan. 1. The credit is equal to $250 per employee in 2017.

Increasing government transparency

Board of Regents meetings: S6503 – A new law that took effect Dec. 8, requires the Board of Regents to give notice of the time, place, and agenda of all public meetings of the Board and any committee, subcommittee, task force or other subgroup seven days before a scheduled meeting. This will allow the stakeholders on several educational issues the appropriate time to respond and discuss the issues. Additionally, it would encourage more involvement from the public and would foster an improved dialogue between both the Board of Regents and other stakeholders in education. 

Reforming the regulatory process: Two new laws taking effect Jan. 1 help make the state’s regulation process more transparent:

    • S7097 requires a proposed or revised rule or another regulatory document’s full text to be posted on the applicable state agency’s website. No web posting is currently required for a revised rule – even if the text has been extensively revised – or for regulatory impact statements, job impact statements, or flexibility analyses for small businesses, local governments, or rural areas; and

    • S7098 requires the full text of every emergency rule to be readily available to the public, either through publication in the State Register or posting on the applicable state agency’s website. It is particularly important for regulated parties and the public to obtain timely access to rules that require immediate adoption through an emergency rulemaking process.

Consumer protections and assistance

New insurance rate reductions for homeowners: A new law enacted as part of the 2016-17 budget allows homeowners to receive a rate reduction for fire insurance, homeowners’ insurance, or property/casual premiums for residential property. The law applies if the owner completes a homeowner course in natural disaster preparedness, home safety, and loss prevention.

Fish labeling accuracy: S6842B – A new law requires that any fish sold as “white tuna” must be from an albacore tuna, long fin tuna, or from a tuna species. Beginning on Jan. 7, oilfish or escolar will no longer be permitted to be labeled as “white tuna.” 

Consumer notification about auto repairs paid by insurance companies: S5639A – A new law that takes effect Jan. 17 requires insurance companies to include a disclosure in repair estimates that informs insured motorists of the right to have their vehicle repaired in a shop of their choice. 

Consumer notification about real estate transactions: S7248 – A new law promotes consumer protection by requiring real estate licensees to, upon the licensee’s initial renewal, have two hours of instruction particularly relating to the law of agency. Thereafter, such license renewal would require at least one hour of instruction in the law of agency, providing real estate professionals with continuing education to help ensure a full understanding by the consumer of the roles agency relationships play in real estate transactions. 

Preventing “zombie” homes: S8159 – Part Q of this law takes effect Dec. 20 and requires certain banks that originate or own mortgages to secure and maintain one- to four-family residential properties which are deemed to be vacant and abandoned. This part requires the Department of Financial Services to maintain a statewide vacant and abandoned property registry for the tracking of such properties. This part also requires banks to provide to homeowners a clear notice of a homeowners’ rights during the foreclosure process. 

Improving road safety:

Move-Over Law expansion: S7938 – Starting Jan. 17, the Move-Over Law includes more types of emergency vehicles. The law requires motorists to slow down and move over when passing authorized emergency vehicles pulled over on the side of the road. To increase safety, the law now includes any vehicle displaying a blue or green light, such as volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers involved in roadside emergency operations. 

Window tint compliance: S6034A – Starting Jan. 1, the state will require vehicles’ window tint to be examined during a yearly New York State safety inspection. If the glass on a vehicle is tinted beyond 30 percent of light transmittance, then that vehicle would not pass the inspection. The window tint would have to be removed or altered for the vehicle to pass. The new law is a more proactive approach intended to protect law enforcement and other drivers, as darkly tinted windows hinder their ability to see inside the vehicle. 

Tax changes

Business tax cut: In 2014, the Senate succeeded in overhauling and simplifying the State Corporate Franchise Tax, which incorporated banks into the new combined code. As part of that reform, the capital base calculation rate for manufacturers will be reduced to 0.085 percent, and other corporate franchise tax payers will be reduced to 0.1 percent starting Jan. 1.

Clean heating fuel tax credit: The 2016-17 budget extended the Clean Heating Fuel Tax Credit from Jan. 1 until Jan. 1, 2020. It also requires that beginning in 2017, to qualify for the credit, each gallon of clean heating fuel must be at least 6 percent biodiesel. The credit is equal to $0.01 per percent of biodiesel mixed into home heating oil, not to exceed $0.20 per gallon.

Making It Easier to Save For College: S6942 – Taxpayers can elect to contribute all or a portion of a personal income tax refund to a 529 college savings account starting Jan. 1. Under existing law, individuals wishing to invest funds into a New York State 529 College Savings Program can deposit funds via electronic bank transfer, check, payroll deduction if available, or by a rollover from another college savings account. Allowing taxpayers to directly deposit a minimum of $25 from their income tax refunds into such accounts will increase opportunities for taxpayers to invest in existing savings plans and help defray the ever increasing costs associated with higher education. 

Permanent Extension of the Non-Custodial Parent Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): The Non- Custodial Parent EITC was set to expire Dec. 31 but this year’s budget extended it permanently. In order to qualify for this refundable credit, the non-custodial parent must: be over the age of 18, have a court order to make child support payments, and be current on those child support payments. In addition, the enhanced EITC is only authorized for noncustodial parents who meet the income threshold for a single taxpayer with no children.

Extension of the Tax Credit for Companies Who Provide Transportation to Individuals with Disabilities: This year’s budget extended the credit for companies who provide transportation to individuals with disabilities from Jan. 1 until Jan. 1, 2022. The credit is equal to the incremental cost to upgrade or purchase a taxicab or livery vehicle that is handicap accessible, up to $10,000 per vehicle.

Tax Return Due Date Changes: The state budget conformed New York State tax filing dates for corporations and partnerships to federal tax law, which was recently amended. The corporate tax return deadline will be moved from Mar. 15 to Apr. 15 and the partnership information statement deadline will be moved from Apr. 15 to Mar. 15. These provisions take effect for taxable years beginning on or after Jan. 1.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 at 11:20 am



The Wyoming County Drug Task Force (DTF) descended on a Perry home yesterday afternoon following a lengthy investigation into narcotic trafficking at a Cherry Street address.

heidi_hopkins.jpg roy_lawrence.jpg
     Heidi Hopkins      Roy Lawrence

Roy Lawrence, 45, and Heidi Hopkins, 43, 17 Cherry St., Perry, were arrested after DTF agents executed a search warrant and allegedly found a “quantity” of heroin, pills, and other drug paraphernalia in the home.

Both suspects were charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, a Class B felony. They were also put in Wyoming County Jail in lieu of $50,000 cash bail.

Other charges and arrests are possible, DTF officials say.

The DTF includes officers from the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office, and the Arcade, Attica, Perry, and Warsaw police departments.

A New York State Police K9 Unit assisted at the scene.

Law enforcement officials remind residents that suspected illegal drug activity can be reported to the confidential drug tip line at (585) 786-8965.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at 4:49 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, drugs, Attica, prison, heroin.

A Buffalo man was sentenced to 21 months in prison for his role in drugs being smuggled into the Attica Correctional Facility.

Jerome Tallington, 28, was convicted in U.S. District Court Nov. 18 of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin, and conspiracy to commit such offenses.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan A. Tokash says the defendant sold heroin and marijuana to Elizabeth Camue Martinez between September and December 2013. Elizabeth then smuggled grams of heroin and ounces of marijuana into the prison and gave it to her husband, inmate Andres Martinez. Andres in turn distributed the drugs to other inmates in the facility.

Andres, 30, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, and Elizabeth, no age provided, were sentenced Sept. 9 – 45 months in prison and 34 months in prison, respectively – for their role in the conspiracy.

During the time of the conspiracy, although not directly attributable to the defendants, there were three prisoner overdose deaths involving heroin and fentanyl in Attica. Additionally, Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo stated at the time of sentencing, the defendants knew that a prisoner in Attica died of an overdose on Sept. 16, 2013, yet continued to sell drugs until Dec. 5 of the same year. Andres will be deported from the United States after he serves his sentence.

The sentences are the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Office; the New York State Police, under the direction of Maj. Steven Nigrelli; the New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET), under the direction of Maj. Wayne C. Olson; the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Howard; the Wyoming Country District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Donald O’Geen; the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Michael Flaherty; and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, under the direction of Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, Perry, heroin.
bzduch_mug_1.jpg willey_mug_1.jpg
     Dennis Dzduch      Jesse Willey

A traffic stop on Route 390 resulted in Livingston County Sheriff’s deputies seizing of 25 bags of suspected heroin.

Dennis Bzduch, 26, and Jesse Willey, 25, were traveling southbound when they were stopped for a traffic violation. During the stop, deputies allegedly found the duo to be in possession of two bundles of and five loose bags of heroin.

Both men were arrested on drug charges and put in Livingston County Jail in lieu of $1,000 cash bail or $2,000 bond.

No further information was provided.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 at 6:20 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, addiction, heroin, opiates, Attica, crime, recovery.



Alone in his bedroom, a mere 20 feet away from both his mom and dad, Michael had taken a gun and shot himself. His father “busted through” the door and held his son as he lay dying from the self-inflicted wound.

That was June 4, 2011. 

Monday night, Avi Israel recounted the events preceding Michael’s death at a public forum centering on the heroin and opioid issue facing the county. Approximately 75 people were in attendance at Attica High School, along with Sen. Patrick Gallivan, and officials from the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Attica Police Department, and Christy Ratajczak, licensed clinical social worker for Northpointe Council Inc..

The forum was spearheaded by Attica resident Sandy Prusak. While she said she didn’t know much about drugs, she could at least get the “people in the know” together and have a conversation about it.

“We have a real (heroin) problem in our community, state, nation. While we may be limited in what we can do nationally, we can do something about it in our community,” Gallivan said. “There isn’t a family or neighborhood that isn’t touched in some way.

“Thirty-four years ago I was sworn in to be a (New York State) Trooper. I spent some time on the road, undercover in narcotics, served on a parole board, and have been in the Legislature for six years...I’ve seen nothing like this in 34 years.”

According to national statistics, 130 people died every day In 2014 from heroin or opioid overdoses.

“This isn’t just a city problem,” said Captain Edward Till of the Wyoming County Drug Task Force. “Six years ago, we didn’t see it (heroin in Wyoming County) as much. However, this year alone we’ve dealt with it 30 to 35 times. There have been five deaths related to heroin overdoses and 26 overdoses law enforcement knows about that are from opioids.” 

In a study done in 2015 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, drug overdose death rates increased fivefold between 1980 and 2008 nationally. According to the study – The Prescription Opioid Epidemic: An Evidence-Based Approach – at that time, drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death. 

In 2012, approximately 2.1 million Americans were addicted to opioid pain relievers. Also in 2012, an additional 467,000 were addicted to heroin. The study notes those figures do not include close to 2.5 million who may be suffering from an opioid use disorder. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) excludes those receiving legitimate opioid prescriptions.

“Michael was going to school to study architecture. He wasn’t a junkie. But he was an addict,” Israel said. “Michael suffered from Crohn’s disease. He was prescribed into addiction by three doctors. One prescribed oxycodone for the pain. One prescribed Xanax for his anxiety. And one prescribed him something for his depression.

“This boy was getting pills at the age of 18. He didn’t have to look anywhere. He just had to call the doctor and tell him he was in pain or anxious or depressed.”

Israel didn’t question Michael when he asked him for money to get his prescriptions. He said he didn’t pay attention to when the prescriptions were billed through his health insurance plan. In 2009 it wasn’t unheard of to go to multiple pharmacies to fill multiple prescriptions for opioids.

“When we saw the explosive of prescription drug abuse throughout our state, people stood up and wanted something to be done about it,” Gallivan said. “I-Stop legislation was enacted and electronic prescription mandates were put into effect. But, the unintended consequence is what we are living now. As the price of prescription drugs went up, the cheaper alternative is heroin.” 

“You are prescribed something to manage an issue,” Ratajczak. “We are all born with a threshold about things and some have a higher threshold to be immune to addiction or to make them an addictive person.

“It’s (addiction) influenced by physiological factors, a doctor, a friend. It’s a multifaceted issue coupled with predisposition. Chemically speaking the drug is attaching itself to receptors then it overtakes the receptors and that’s when the need becomes great.”

In addition to I-Stop (Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing -- Prescription Monitoring Program) National Prescription Drug Take Back Days are held at least twice a year locally and nationally. Additionally, the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office installed collection boxes in the lobby of the Public Safety Building, Main Street, Warsaw. 

“If you can start educating people about prescription drugs people are more apt to get rid of their old drugs during the take back days,” said DEA Agent John P. Flickinger. “One hit on crack and people feel like their an addict for life. Some people react like that with prescription drugs.”

Even with all the attention the opioid issue is generating, Flickinger said “lots of kids” still talk about having parties where they trade pills. Fifty-two percent of people are getting it free from a friend or relative. Subsequently, officials say, once they become addicted, they begin to get the drugs from other sources.

“When kids use it (opioids) it will change their brain forever because they still have a developing brain,” Flickinger said. “It’s dangerous because it can set up a cycle of abuse their whole life.”

Along with education and treatment, enforcement is also needed, officials say.

“We needed a multifaceted front to combat this,” Gallivan said. “Enforcement would hold people accountable for their role in an overdose death in the community.”

As it stands right now, it’s only under federal statue that a heroin dealer can be charged for their clients’ overdose death. The Senate is currently working toward creating a similar State statue.

“While we know it's a disease or sickness or addiction, some people don't care and they need to be held accountable,” Gallivan said.

According to Task Force officials, there have been 37 opioid- or heroin-related arrests this year. Of that figure, 21 were male and 17 were female, whereas years ago, males were arrested at a higher rate. Currently, county arrests for drug offenses are getting closer to a 50/50 ratio. 

Jail officials say the influx in arrests has “severely affected” the female portion of the county’s inmate population with 80 to 90 percent being jailed for heroin-related crimes.

“A year ago, our agents ran into a dealer who gave their 3-year-old child to them for collateral during a drug deal,” Till said. “And, more and more drug busts have children in the home.”

“Before last year, people were dying from prescription drug overdoses. Now it’s heroin,” Flickinger said. “We do enforcement to go after the largest traffickers. Less drugs on the street, the less likely someone is to use them. People who start with opioids, often turn to heroin.”

Attica Police Chief Dean Hendershott, who has spent his entire police career in Attica, can pinpoint the year the epidemic reached the village. 

Hendershott says, when a local man came back to home from college in 2003, he brought back more than new knowledge. He also came saddled with a heroin addiction. Three weeks later while at a party with six other people he overdosed and died. Since that time, three of those people have died and the others are still “strung out.” 

“There have been 28 overdoses in the village, and 22 suicides, of which, one third are the result of heroin since 2003,” Hendershott said.

In December 2010, Michael had gone up to his father and told him he was addicted to his pain medication. At that same time, Israel was beginning to hear about people getting addicted to their pain medication – his son was one of the those affected.

Israel took Michael to the doctor to see what could be done about Michael’s addiction.

“We told the doctor he was addicted and the doctor said he ‘knew’ what he was doing and kept prescribing the medication. They (the doctors) didn’t get educated about addiction, they just prescribed the drugs.”

The Israel’s got educated, talked to people, tried to get their son into rehab. And... they watched their son. They saw his skin graying, his eyes begin to sink in. He wasn’t eating and he was “turning in, in himself.”

On the morning of June 4, Michael tried asking for help, but his father was frustrated and had yelled at him.

“I had said to him, ‘I can’t put up with this anymore. Tell me where you want to go and I’ll pay for the ticket because I don’t know anything about addiction.’ I had a fight with my son before he died. Those were not good words. Those were the words I last said to him.”

Signs and symptoms of opiate abuse include:

    • “Lost” or stolen medications;

    • Sedation;

    • Respiratory depression;

    • Small pupils;

    • Itching;

    • Nausea/vomiting;

    • Slurred speech;

    • Confusion/poor judgement;

    • Unusual sleepiness, declining activity, sleep disturbances;

    • Increased activity/alertness;

    • Decreased appetite; and

    • Slowed gait/movement.

Withdrawal is noted by severe flu-like symptoms.

“Educate yourself on the symptoms,” Ratajczak said. “Be aware. Ask questions. Check your kids' phones and other electronic devices. Have a conversation about it. There are places to turn to. We are all in this together.”

Along with the School Resource Officer in Attica and Letchworth schools, the Guidance Office also has resources.

“Check the phone. Not just text messaging, all social medias out there, all apps and the like. The answers are there,” Rudolph said.

Tony, who grew up in a city, moved to the rural area to get away from drugs. It wasn’t quite the barrier he needed for his daughter to remain unscathed from the heroin epidemic. He hadn’t banked on his daughter becoming an addict. 

“My daughter has an addiction. Unfortunately, she had to take the route of the law enforcement way to get the help. That always isn't the best way. It’s frustrating as a parent, the road is not easy, we begged for help. But it wasn't until she got arrested before she got some help.”

Israel says he kind of blames himself in the death of his son because he didn’t know much about addiction. But he does now. While he said the knowledge it doesn’t help his son, he can tell his son’s story so other parents can recognize the symptoms.

“Not only did my son die. It affected our family. You not only lose a member, it destroys a family. It takes over and becomes an instigator. It gets everyone fighting and no one is understanding that it is a disease. It takes over your brain; it's not going to let you go.

“This is a disease that our society refuses to acknowledge exists. You are told to go home if you don't look stressed enough. It's a disease that you are trying to hide. It is not a choice. Nobody. Nobody makes a choice to be addicted. It happens. 

“I used to tell my son ‘Come on Mike just stop it.’ I didn't understand how bad opioids take over your brain. Talk to your kids. Talk to your kids about addiction. But first learn.”

An overall sense of agreement was palpable in the auditorium: The conversation needs to continue. We have to start somewhere. This affects everyone.

“If you think it’s not happening in your house... Start taking a look at the behavior of your kid. Even if you’re wrong...You’ll be alright. But if you’re right...You can be saving your kid's life,” Israel said. “We can stop more people from falling into this hole called addiction.

For more information about Michael’s story go to Save the Michaels of the World.

For more information on addiction and recovery visit Recovery.org or Spectrum Human Services or Smart Recovery of Warsaw.

See related: Community forum on heroin and opiates to be held in Attica





Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 1:21 pm
posted by Billie Owens in heroin, opioids, drug abuse, Attica.
Event Date and Time: 
October 17, 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

While Sandy Prusak may not have known that much about heroin, she figured she didn’t have to, she just had to get the people that did know together and start a conversation.

“I feel like I’m on the outside looking in. But, people I know have had their children overdose and not make it and you see how it affects them,” said the Attica resident. “A cousin’s stepdaughter died of an overdose and you go to the funeral and you see the sadness. It’s everywhere. It’s affecting everyone.”

Friday, October 14, 2016 at 4:25 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, drugs, crime, events, Attica, heroin.

While Sandy Prusak may not have known that much about heroin, she figured she didn’t have to, she just had to get the people that did know together and start a conversation.

“I feel like I’m on the outside looking in. But, people I know have had their children overdose and not make it and you see how it affects them,” said the Attica resident. “A cousin’s stepdaughter died of an overdose and you go to the funeral and you see the sadness. It’s everywhere. It’s affecting everyone.”

That’s when she had the idea of initiating a Community Forum on Heroin and Opiates. The event will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at Attica High School, Attica. 

“I know nothing about the drugs. I want to know everything from the beginning,” Prusak said. “Most of all, I want parents to know what to look for in their children to see if they are on drugs.

"Has there been a theft of items or change? I want to know that if you look at your kid you will be able to recognize the signs of use and maybe you can stop it. Nobody wants their kid to have that urge for the rest of their life.”

She wanted to keep the program simple. She merely wanted to get people together and talk about it. She would like to see this program help erase the negativity of opening up if your child is a drug addict or are a functioning drug addict. 

“It affects all people, everyone you talk to. People are willing to talk about it and it needs to be addressed. You can have pot laced with heroin and not know it then all of the sudden you're hooked. If the kids have the information, maybe it will be a deterrent.

“I'm just sick of watching it happen. I don't like to see kids overdose and die. I want to be able to do something to make more people aware and this is what I can do without me having prior experience with drugs. I don't want anyone to lose their kid, as a mom that's devastating.”

The program will include personal experiences, facts and statistics, and the law. Additionally, it's to give the public a better understanding of what addicts are up against as well.

“If this meeting can stop just one kid from trying it... I want people to talk about it. Start the conversation. Learn the dangers. Get people talking.”

Monday, August 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, drugs, heroin, Attica, Arcade.

The Wyoming County Drug Task Force (DTF) continues their efforts ridding the county of illegal drugs with the arrests of three individuals.

On July 29, two Buffalo residents were arrested following an undercover “drug operation” in the Village of Arcade.

_larenzo_eaton_1.jpg daytionna_petty.jpg
   Larenzo Eaton    Daytionna Perry

Larenzo Eaton, 30, and Daytionna Perry, 24, are accused of selling crack cocaine in the village. They were both charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, a Class B felony, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, and conspiracy in the fourth degree. Both are free after posting bail.

On Aug. 18, the final suspect in the DTF’s Operation Spring Sweep was extradited back to Wyoming County from the State of Florida.

   Miranda Walker

Miranda Walker, 21, formerly of Attica, was located in July in Florida. She was charged with two counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, and two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. 

Walker allegedly sold heroin on two occasions in the Village of Attica. She is currently being held in the Wyoming County Jail in lieu of $50,000 cash bail.

Operation Spring Sweep has netted 26 arrests throughout the county.

Any suspicion of illegal drug activity can be reported to the confidential tip line at (585) 786-8965.

Monday, July 25, 2016 at 12:05 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, Perry, Castile, heroin.

A Castile man was taken to Wyoming County Community Hospital (WCCH) for a suspected heroin overdose after Perry Police found him and two others unconscious in a vehicle.

David Parkhurst, 20, Zachary A. Conklin, 29, and Karriann Elders, 18, were found “unresponsive” in their vehicle on July 22 in a parking lot behind the laundromat on South Main Street, Perry.  

The three are accused of returning to the county following a trip to the Rochester area, where drugs were suspected to have been purchased, about an hour before the 9-1-1 call was placed. 

Perry Ambulance medically cleared Elders and Parkhurst before they were taken into custody. Conklin, was taken to WCCH, via Perry Ambulance, for a possible overdose and remained there for observation. 

During the investigation, 20 small baggies of suspected heroin were allegedly found in the passenger area of the vehicle in plain view, along with some empty ones. Additionally, nine hypodermic syringes; and 39.5 pills, suspected to be Valium, were also allegedly found in the vehicle.

     David Parkhurst

Parkhurst was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, possession of a hypodermic instrument, public appearance under the influence of narcotic/drugs, and driving while ability impaired by drugs.

     Karriann Elders

Elders was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree and possession of a hypodermic instrument.

Conklin was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, possession of a hypodermic instrument, and public appearance under the influence of narcotics/drugs.

The investigation is continuing and more charges are possible.

Perry Police were assisted at the scene by Perry Emergency Ambulance, Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department and an off-duty member of the New York State Police.

Perry Police also credit the person who called 9-1-1.

“They probably saved a life…if not three lives,” stated Police officials.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 6:15 pm

Press release:

The New York State Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction identified a four-pronged approach that would stem the growth of the heroin and opioid crisis. 

In its recently released report, the findings not only included the new approach, but also comprehensive legislative recommendations to address shortcomings in the state’s existing prevention and treatment-delivery strategies.

“We have all heard of the devastating impact that heroin and opioid abuse is having in our communities,” said Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma). “Based on what we heard from parents, health experts, law enforcement representatives and others across the state, it is clear that it will take a unified effort to overcome this public health crisis. These recommendations help ensure that services and resources are in place to increase public awareness, to help those struggling with addiction and to provide law enforcement with the tools to combat this epidemic.”

The four-pronged approach includes:

  • Prevention: increasing awareness to better educate the public of the inherent risks involved in using heroin and prescription opioids, and taking advantage of technological advances available to deter the abuse of prescription drugs and prevent addiction;
  • Treatment: recognizing the critical need for expanded and improved insurance coverage, and enhancing access to all forms of effective treatment -- including inpatient, outpatient, and Medication Assisted Treatment -- in order to help individuals return to stable and productive lives;
  • Recovery: providing the proper supports, such as safe environments, stable employment, and opportunities to participate in diversion programs that avoid incarceration in order to facilitate successful recoveries from addiction; and
  • Enforcement: implementing criminal justice reforms that give law enforcement the necessary tools to disrupt the supply of heroin and stop the diversion of opiate prescription medications within the state.

Legislative recommendations:
The Task Force incorporated the four essential prongs and collaborated with stakeholders in communities across the state as part of its strategy to develop the report’s legislative and budgetary recommendations. They create an effective, multi-faceted, and comprehensive approach to addressing many of the issues raised by the state’s opioid crisis.

The Task Force is recommending the following legislative actions for the senate to consider during the 2016 legislative session and for state agencies to assist in implementing:


    • Limiting initial prescriptions of controlled substances (S6091B, Hannon);
    • Creating a Prescription Pain Medication Awareness Program (S4348A, Hannon);
    • Enhancing patient access to abuse-deterrent technology for opioids (S6962A, Hannon);
    • Ensuring proper opioid education to prescribed patients (S7315, Murphy, Amedore, Ortt);
    • Establishing a Narcan kit registry (S6516A, Amedore);
    • Providing instruction of mental health, alcohol, drug and tobacco use in junior and senior high schools (S5546A, Funke);
    • Require counseling prior to issuing a prescription for a Schedule II opioid (S7365,Askshar);
    • Increasing availability of naloxone (S6346A, Carlucci); and
    • Requiring the state Department of Health (DOH) and the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to examine and report on the underreported and at-risk populations, including but not limited to Native American Tribes and the effect the heroin and opioid crisis is having on those populations.

    • Continuing education for credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselors (S7301, Amedore, Murphy, Ortt);
    • Remove barriers to Medication Assisted Treatment (S7317A, Murphy, Amedore, Ortt);
    • Examining insurance coverage for medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) of opioid addiction and examine the accessibility across the state to new treatment modalities;
    • Enhancing emergency intervention procedures (S6248B, Ortt);
    • Establishing assisted outpatient treatment for substance use disorders (S631, Carlucci);
    • Requiring the DOH and OASAS to examine and report on the most effective treatment modalities, including ideal settings, treatment length, and best practices for heroin and opioid addiction;
    • Creating and appointing an Ombudsman to assist individuals and families in obtaining appropriate insurance coverage for treatment services;

    • Requiring all OASAS-certified treatment providers to inform individuals receiving treatment and their families of their right to file an external appeal with the Department of Financial Services (DFS) and provide them with the means necessary to access such appeal; and
    • Requiring DOH and DFS to rigorously scrutinize the implementation of any conditions placed on accessing treatment.

    • Including for-profit providers in the Request for Proposals Process for substance use disorder and gambling programs (S7446, Amedore);
    • Creating a Sober Living Task Force (S3989A, Croci);
    • Expanding treatment options for judicial diversion participants (S6874, Murphy);
    • Expanding access to judicial diversion programs (S6322A, Ranzenhofer);
    • Encouraging employment of recovering users (S2346, Seward);
    • Enacting the Wraparound Services Demonstration Program (S7748A, Carlucci); and
    • Requiring DOH and OASAS to examine and report on vital statistics related to heroin and opioid addiction, including relapse rate, length of treatment, and what, if any, follow up care supports are in place upon discharge.


    • Enhancing penalties for the sale of controlled substances on park grounds and playgrounds (S994, Golden) – this bill passed the Senate on March 1;
    • Facilitating the conviction of drug dealers (S100, Boyle);
    • Expanding the crime of operating as a major trafficker (S4177, Murphy);
    • Creating Drug-Free Zones around drug or alcohol treatment centers and methadone clinics (S7200, Akshar);
    • Establishing appropriate penalties as it relates to heroin sales (S7012, Ortt);
    • Enhancing judicial access to juvenile records for determining judicial diversion program eligibility (S6317, DeFrancisco);
    • Adding fentanyl to the controlled substance schedule (S6632A, Croci);
    • Establishing Xylazine as a controlled substance (S7397, Murphy);
    • Creating the crime of homicide by sale of an opioid controlled substance (S4163, Amedore); and
    • Developing a formula to dispense funds acquired from the seizure of assets used in then commission of drug crimes.

Budgetary Recommendations:
The report highlighted this year’s state budget commitment of $166 million for heroin and opioid crisis, treatment, outpatient, and residential services. Due to advocacy by the senate’s task force members, the budget included an increase of $25 million above the executive budget’s original proposal.

The report recommends that this additional $25 million would support: Family Support Navigator and Navigator training programs; On-Call Peer programs; Adolescent Clubhouses to provide safe and welcoming spaces for teens; Recovery Community and Outreach Centers; Recovery Coach peer mentoring programs; a Combat Heroin public service campaign; Opioid Overdose Prevention program; Opioid Medication Treatment program; Transitional Housing Opportunities; Local Government Unit Block Grants; School Resource Officer Training programs; and a Wraparound Services Demonstration Program.

Senate’s leadership in addressing the opioid epidemic:
The report is just the latest step taken by the Senate Majority Coalition to meet the heroin crisis head on – seeking legislative solutions and securing necessary funding. Since 2011, laws have been adopted to establish Good Samaritan protections, further expand access to naloxone, create I-STOP, and enhance insurance coverage among others.

New York providers must e-prescribe legend drugs and controlled substances, per New York’s electronic prescribing mandate, also known as I-STOP (Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing) mandates. This e-prescribing requirement was passed by the New York State legislature to help combat the rising rates of prescription drug abuse in New York.

In March 2014, the bipartisan New York State Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction was created to examine the alarming rise in use of heroin and opioids that has claimed lives and hurt families across New York State.  Following forums held throughout New York State, Task Force members, led by Chair Senator Phil Boyle and Co-Chairs Senator Mike Nozzolio and Senator David Carlucci, secured the enactment of 11 bills signed into law by Governor Cuomo and $2.25 million in substance abuse funding.

Building on this success, Senators Ortt, Amedore, and Murphy were named as the task force co-chairs early last year and joined with other members to hold forums in Westchester, Monroe, Niagara, Albany, Otsego, Yates, Kings, Suffolk, and Broome counties. They brought together medical experts, treatment providers, law enforcement, and affected New Yorkers who provided invaluable insights and anecdotal evidence, affording the members the opportunity to understand how legislation could better address this public health crisis.

Members of the bipartisan task force include senators Fred Akshar (R-C-I, Colesville), John Bonacic (R-C-I, Mount Hope), Phil Boyle (R-C-I, Suffolk County), David Carlucci (D, Rockland), Thomas Croci (R, Sayville), Hugh Farley (R-C, Schenectady), John Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport), Rich Funke (R-C-I, Fairport), Pat Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma), Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), Joseph A. Griffo (R, Rome), Kemp Hannon (R, Nassau), Andrew Lanza (R-C-I, Staten Island), William Larkin (R-C, Cornwall-on-Hudson), Kenneth LaValle (R-C-I, Port Jefferson), Carl L. Marcellino (R, Syosset), Kathleen A. Marchione (R-C, Halfmoon), Jack Martins (R-C-I, Mineola), Michael Nozzolio (R-C, Fayette), Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats), Michael Ranzenhofer (R-C-I, Amherst), Patty Ritchie (R-C, Heuvelton), Joseph Robach (R-C-I, Rochester), Diane Savino (D, Staten Island/Brooklyn), Susan Serino (R, Hyde Park), James L. Seward (R-C-I, Oneonta), David J. Valesky (D-Oneida), Michael Venditto (R-C-I, Massapequa), and Catharine Young (R-I-C, Olean).

The full report with detailed findings and recommendations can be found at: https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/articles/attachments/htf_report_final2.pdf

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 1:46 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, drugs, opiates, heroin, Warsaw.


Jenna and her son Jackson in October 2015, one month before she died of a heroin overdose.

Nobody knows how long he had lain next to her. Nobody knows what time her then 3-year-old son padded into her room, snuggled up to her and fell back asleep. The only certainty is that by 7 o’clock the next morning she was dead, found with a needle still stuck in her arm, her son’s pillow and blanket still next to her and the drugs scattered about her.

It was Nov. 21 and she was dead.

When Trisha Strathearn first got the call that her grandson’s mother was in the hospital, she called her son (Jackson’s father) and told him to “go get Jackson, Jenna overdosed.” When Michael got there, the little boy asked his dad why he was there, nana was coming to get him. Michael had told him that nana was in the hospital with mommy.

When Strathearn returned from the hospital little Jackson asked where his mommy was.

“I told him ‘mommy died baby’ and he had said ‘no, you were at the hospital with mommy.’ I told him that mommy was in heaven. He had left it at that for a couple of weeks.”

Then one day the child told his grandma that he missed his mommy and wanted to see her. But this time when Strathearn told him that his mommy was in heaven and she could see him, the little boy said “no nana, you lied to me. Mommy is not in the heavens in the clouds. She’s with the cops and the ambulance because I seen them take mommy out.” And on and off he would have his meltdowns.

When Jenna had gotten to the emergency room, her body temperature was 93 degrees. When Jackson woke up and couldn’t wake his mother up, he went to Jenna’s roommate Justin and told him "mommy won’t wake up. I can’t wake mommy up."

“He would talk about her occasionally, saying things like ‘I snuggled with mommy on her bed.’ or ‘I miss mommy.’ And that was the part we did not know. We didn’t know what he saw and what he had heard until one day, out of the blue he said ‘Justin was hitting mommy and then he would kiss her.’ And that’s when the lightbulb came on,” Strathearn said.

Jackson had seen his mom’s roommate performing CPR on her. It wasn’t until the hospital had performed a CAT scan that they found out she had been brain dead for several hours – while the little boy was snuggled up next to her soundly asleep – before Jackson woke up at 7 a.m..

The road to addiction

Strathearn’s son Michael starting using drugs at a very young age, smoking pot at around 14 years old. He then dabbled in cocaine, then pills, then hallucinogens, until finally, heroin.

“He was always trying another drug to get a different high before he found heroin. He started out snorting it. Once you snort it, once you do heroin for the very first time, that’s it, you get hooked, because with heroin, once you do it it gives you the most essential high that you will ever get. You will never get that high ever again. And it’s cheap.”

A baggie of heroin costs around $10. However, while the initial effect is “the best feeling,” once you come down, you want that high again. So, you spend another 10 dollars and snort it again. But it doesn’t give you that same feeling, so you buy more and snort more until you are no longer satisfied with just the buzz. 

It’s called “chasing the dragon,” when you keep chasing that very first high. So, you keep buying more to experience that same feeling, until one day, you start smoking it and it’s ahhhh, there it is, almost like that first high and you’ve caught the dragon, but you haven’t matched it. So you’re still trying to catch it and trying to beat it and then you go to shooting it. Once you shoot it, you’ve caught that dragon and you’ve got that high and there’s nothing left. But it’s still not the same as the first time so you keep buying more.

“It’s very difficult to grasp. Heroin hardwires your brain differently than cocaine or pills or other drugs, for that matter. It’s the worst addiction ever. You can be clean for 25 years and you can relapse. You can start again. It’s something that you struggle with every day.”

It took just a few months for heroin to take a hold of Michael – from the time he first snorted it, to the first time he “shot up.” He has been using heroin for about four years. At least that’s what Strathearn thinks, she isn’t really sure, there were too many lies to be certain.

“I don’t know how long he was actually using (drugs) before I found out. I first found out he was smoking pot (marijuana) when he was 14. He’s 26 now. It’s been a very long road of drugs, probation, jail for sales (of drugs), shock camp, parole...it’s been a very long, very hard road of addiction. He’s been in recovery since October of last year and now has custody of his son.” 

Shock Incarceration Program (shock camp) is a six-month program that prepares young, nonviolent inmates for early parole release consideration. The program provides a schedule of rigorous physical activity, intensive regimentation, discipline, and drug rehabilitation.

The road to recovery

Although Michael is clean now, he struggles every day to fight the demon of that addiction. It was a tumultuous road of addiction, recovery, relapse, recovery, death, and discovery.

Strathearn had taken Michael and Jenna’s child away from them when Jackson was just a month old. They had moved in with her and her husband just after the baby was born. It was then when she saw them actively using. It was then when she had no choice but to kick them out.

“It was then that I had seen it right smack in my face that they had lied to me. As a mom, you want to believe your kids. You know they are using, but they’re so good at lying and deceiving, too. I’d seen the ‘mom, will you watch the baby?’ And they’d be gone at all hours and people were telling me that my grandchild is being left with Joe Schmo and they would take him to the city...and I would confront them and it would be a constant fight.”

It wasn’t until one day she had seen the use with her own eyes, how big their addiction really was.

“I had walked into their room and Jenna was shooting up and I lost my mind. Jackson was sitting on the bed. She had a piece of my grandson’s clothing around her arm and she was shooting up. We had some words and the needle went flying on the floor and she came at me and it had gotten a little physical. I told her to get out and don’t come back. She told me she wasn’t going to leave without her child and I told her she wasn’t going to take him out of the house.”

The police got involved and Strathearn filed paperwork with the court and got immediate custody of Jackson. Michael and Jenna had supervised visits. On one of those visits, Strathearn caught them both shooting up and again called the police. This time, she had them both arrested and they were charged with endangering the welfare of a child. An order of protection was put in place and all visitation with their son ended. It was time for Strathearn to shut the door.

“I had to tell them that if they couldn’t put their child first ahead of the drugs then I was done. It killed me as a mother. I felt like a piece of shit. I took my child’s child away and turned my back on my child. But, I had to close that door, because I was their biggest enabler.

“When they had their own place I would loan them money or get them groceries, because when your child is saying they need help, you help. I was paying my bills and I was paying their bills, all the while knowing they had a drug problem. But as a mom you don’t see it that way. You see it as you helping your child.”

At one point she had stopped giving them cash and paid their bills directly. She would go to Tops and pay the electric bill. She would send a check to their landlord for rent. Then they got evicted.

“That was a wake up call. It was like ‘hello, you’re working full-time, that’s money in your pocket because mom is paying your bills, so why are you getting evicted?’ So they had moved in with me, but I was still an enabler until I had no choice but to kick them out.”

Strathearn fought anxiety every day.

“Even though I knew my grandson was safe and not being taken to drug houses and left alone, I was going to bed every night wondering if my child was okay. Was my child eating and have a fully belly. I’d lay there and cry and cry and cry and my husband would say ‘stop it. Stop it.’ And I would say to him ‘you don’t understand, this isn’t your child.’ And it was so hard and my son was so mad and angry.”

Michael would show up at her house and call her “every name in the book” and tell her he hated her and couldn’t wait till she died so he could “piss on your grave” and “how dare” she take his child away from him. It had finally gotten to the point where Strathearn’s husband stepped in and told Michael “you had done enough, you had said enough. Get off my property. If you come back, you are going to be arrested.”

“My husband had said to me ‘let me be your rock, you’re not going to get through this unless you let me be your rock.' ”

Even when Strathearn took a leave of absence from work, it was a long time where she would just cry all day and all night. She got herself into counseling and took herself to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings. She also reached out to a group on Facebook called I Hate Heroin

“I reached out to them and they really helped me understand that it was nothing I did as a mother – because I did blame myself. I felt like a piece-of-shit mother, asking myself what I could have done differently. I felt like I failed my son.

“At first I did blame myself, then the people he hung out with. I blamed everyone else for his addiction but him. I didn’t want to hold him accountable. I wanted to blame everyone else. I was making excuses for him on why he was an addict. Once I opened my mind and stopped blaming myself and everyone else, I was able to begin to heal.”

Michael had blamed her, too. He blamed her for his father walking out on them and the choices he made. Every time he got mad, he had blamed her.

“The guilt that I carried around all these years...and he let me feel guilty. So, once I stopped doing that, once I stopped enabling him, I was able to get stronger. I had to realize he made the choices he made. He chose to do drugs. I didn’t force him to get high. I didn’t force him to use cocaine. I didn’t force him to take those pills. I didn’t force him to do acid or snort or shoot heroin; he made those choices.”

When Michael and Jenna broke up, it wasn’t a nasty breakup, they were just on different paths to recovery. They went into rehab at different times – he had gotten a bed at a facility and she had stayed with some friends. Jenna eventually got a bed, but then she had gotten her hands on some heroin and got kicked out of the program. That’s when Michael said “that’s it.” 

After their breakup, Jenna landed herself in Treatment Court and was successful. She was on her way to recovery.

“She was like a daughter to me. On Oct. 26 (2015) I turned custody over to the two of them and it was against my better judgement. By that time, she had graduated from drug court (Treatment Court), and had been clean for two years. Her biggest fear after she got off drug court was that she didn’t really have anything to keep her accountable.”

Formerly called Drug Court in Wyoming County, Treatment Court not only handles those who have a drug problem, but also those with an alcohol or mental health problem. Other assistance involves aiding with health insurance issues – oftentimes a hurdle to gaining access to treatment – for outpatient or inpatient services.

One month later, she overdosed and her son found her body.

Life goes on

From Strathearn’s standpoint, it was very difficult for her to hear her child say that he was okay. When Michael went to the hospital to see Jenna, he leaned over her body and said to her still form “You broke our promise. You lied. For that, I will never forgive you. But I will always love you.”

“Heroin has such a hold on them that they don’t want to hurt their loved ones. When Jenna died, I had asked Michael...I needed to understand that why, when the door of communication was wide open, why, when you wanted to use and you are that desperate, when you were on the verge of relapse, why wouldn’t you pick up the phone and call somebody that you know loves you and is concerned. Why wouldn’t you just pick of the phone and call?”

And when she and her son Michael were sitting in the truck and she was sobbing and he was crying, he said to her:

“Mom, look in the mirror. Take a good, long hard look. It’s that look. It’s that look of disappointment that we don’t want to see when we are on the verge of wanting to shoot up. It’s that hurt in your voice that we don’t want to hear. You put on that front, even though we know you’ll come instantly, but it’s that hurt in your voice, the disappointment on your face that we don’t want to see. That is why.”

“And I just sobbed. And that’s why she didn’t call me.”

Jenna also fought addiction from a very young age, traveling down a path similar to Michael’s, but was on her way to recovery. However, for whatever reason, she couldn’t reach out to anyone last November and she overdosed. At this point, the family is still waiting for a toxicology report from Monroe County to determine the exact cause of death.

“It’s been a very tough road and now my son has my grandson full-time and while I worried before, my brain is constantly racing now. Is my son okay? Is he truly okay, because now when I look back on things, he was very good at being deceitful and lying. I see my son every day and I’m drilling him, until one day he says to me ‘back off. Let me live my life. Let me be a father.’ And I said to him, ‘I have raised this boy for three-and-one-half years and if you think I’m going to back off now you’re sadly mistaken. And until this boy can take care of himself, get used to it because I’m not going anywhere. I will always be worried about you and worried about you relapsing.

"His mother is dead and he found her. And I will worry about you every day and every night because you are my child. But you know what. You can tell me you’re okay, but the day before Jenna died, she stood in my doorway and hugged me and told me she loved me and told me she was okay. And you know what, she died. So you can sit there and tell me you’re okay, and I’m not going to believe you because she did the same thing and she wasn’t okay.”

While Strathearn is a constant presence in her son and grandson’s life, she is learning to allow her son to be a father, to be the man she knows he can be.

For more information on rehab and recovery visit Spectrum Human Services or the Wyoming County Mental Health Department.

Friday, May 13, 2016 at 1:17 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, Warsaw, Board of Supervisors, drugs, heroin.

There is a heroin issue that is enveloping the nation; the United States, while hosting a small fraction of the world’s population, has the largest percentage of the opioid problem.

U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. spoke about the opioid epidemic at the monthly Wyoming County Board of Supervisors meeting held earlier this week.

Heroin is considered a Schedule 2 narcotic in the opiate family – a drug derived from the opium poppy. At one time, opioids referred to synthetic opiates only – drugs created to simulate opium, however different chemically. Currently, the term opioid is used for the entire family of opiates – natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic.

According to Hochul, there are four main facts surrounding the opioid problem: 

    • They are over prescribed. The United States holds 1 percent of the world's population, but 99 percent of the problem;

    • Prescription Take Back Days. The amount of pills that residents of the state turn in is larger than other areas of the country;

    • Five doctors have been charged and or convicted of abuse of their powers when prescribing pain medication; and 

    • Overuse. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in five people will use an opioid without a prescription.

“Every 17 minutes someone dies from an opioid overdose nationwide,” Hochul said. “About two years ago, there were 100 deaths in Erie County. In 2015, it more than doubled. In 2016, that number could reach over 500. That’s about 10 per week. This past February there were 23 overdose deaths in just one week.”

By way of comparison, according to the U.S. attorney, there were 40 murders in Erie County in 2015. In that same year, there were 262 overdose deaths. He also estimates that there would have been more than 1,000 if it weren’t for Narcan, which is used by first responders to reverse the effect of opioids in the attempt to save lives.

In Wyoming County, between 2010 and 2014 the number of opioid related emergency department admissions increased 47.6 percent – 42 and 62. The number of opioid-related inpatient hospital admissions rose from 61 to 91 respectively – a 49.2-percent increase. 

During that same time period, those who were admitted for treatment for any opioid in Western New York was 7,679 in 2010. By 2014, the number of people seeking treatment rose by almost a third – 10,154 – a 32-percent increase.

Across the state, those in treatment for heroin use was 55,900 in 2010; in 2014, 77,647. The number of deaths across the state due to heroin overdose increased 163 percent (215 in 2008, 637 in 2013) and opioid overdoses increased 30 percent (763 to 952).

Hochul and county officials agree, change cannot be implemented overnight and it may get worse before it gets better.

“In Scioto County Ohio, every member of every family was addicted to pain pills in 2011,” Hochul said. “They have been trying to address this problem for five years. Publicity isn’t working. The See Something, Say Something campaign isn’t working with the pill problem.”

While Erie County has taken a proactive approach to combat the issue – the take back program, arresting pill traffickers, and education – officials say that Narcan is making a dent, but the number of overdoses are still rising. 

“Question your doctor when you get a prescription pain medication. Ask if their are alternatives,”  he said. “Heroin is cheap compared to pills. Dealers want the pills, not the heroin. People are also looking to self-medicate to cope with stresses.

“If we pretend it doesn’t exist, we’re in denial. We have to address it.”

According to medical experts, 90 percent of all addictions begin in the teen years.

For more information see the New York State Opioid poisoning, overdose and prevention 2015 report to the governor and NYS legislature

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 8:02 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, heroin, Attica, Warsaw, drugs.

Around September of last year, in a church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, nearly 650 people unanimously voiced support for Safe Injection Facilities (SIF) in New York City. Last month in Ithaca, Mayor Svante Myrick proposed such a facility for that city. In both instances, preventing heroin overdoses were cited as the reasoning behind this option.

The Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office, as well as local law enforcement agencies, the District Attorney’s Office, and officials in the county’s Mental Health Department, are against SIFs. 

“I don’t believe government should be managing illegal activity,” said Sheriff Gregory Rudolph. “Furthermore, it does not address the root problem, which is long term and intense treatment. Once a person gets to the point in their addiction where they are injecting themselves, the recovery rate is abysmal without such treatment.”

To have a managed injection facility in this area or in this community is highly unlikely, county officials report, due to the conservative views of the county in general. But philosophically, would a SIF in Wyoming County be a benefit or a means to put out the wrong message?  

“In ‘giving’ the addicts what they crave are we not saying your addiction is OK, don’t get help, but allow the addiction to continue?” said Attica Police Chief Dean Hendershott. “Rather than telling them no, it’s not OK, however here is a program, a plan, a new life away from addiction for not only the victim but their families and the community at large.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2002 – 2013, heroin related deaths nearly quadrupled in the United States. In 2013 alone, more than 8,200 people died.

In October 2014, intranasal naloxone (Narcan) was a new medical option made available in the community overdose prevention program. Since then, it has been used twice in the county. The program is sponsored by the New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

Some county officials believe naloxone, which is also available to the general public, and the proposal of SIFs are giving the wrong message and obscuring the factual data. With the availability of Narcan, data on the number of overdoses or the extent of the heroin or other illicit drug problems, may become skewed.

“I have mixed concerns with this type of facility and the general use of naloxone by the general public,” Hendershott said. “How do we know who needs the help? And, how do we now get the help to those whose addiction has taken over their life?”

Hendershott believes the initial premise to provide naloxone kits to first responders was a step in the right direction. It set a path for the distribution and dispensing of the medication by trained personnel out in the field, where it’s most effective in the initial stages of an overdose. While Rudolph isn’t against the general public’s access to Narcan, he believes it should first be made readily available to ambulances, volunteer emergency medical technicians and the first responder community.

“Naloxone is regulated by the Health Department and it is important for whoever has it, that they are properly trained in its use and with the understanding the subject of its use still needs professional medical care,” Rudolph said.

“Once 9-1-1 is called for this type of overdose, there are some very specific steps set in place to provide immediate care, and hopefully continuing care, for the victim to proceed to a physical recovery – to put a plan in place for long-term addiction recovery,” Hendershott said. “This is all contingent on if the victim so chooses to take that direction in their life.”

Hendershott’s thoughts on the managed heroin injection facilities are mixed. As he stated:

To the powers that be, it appears it is better to appease the problem rather than initiate actual care plans for recovery. Addiction and abuse of illicit drugs are associated to mental health issues with most cases. Since the dissolution and elimination of most of the psychiatric centers in the state, there is very limited availability for inpatient care. 

With a substance abuse problem, it is generally dealt with as an outpatient care program and relapse is frequent. It has been my experience that when victims do move forward to a rehab inpatient care, upon their return to the community they relapse and start abusing drugs again. With limited follow-up care, a lack of services/facilities, and the lack of funding, the victims are almost set up to fail.

“I have personally found that when relapse has occurred the victims and/or the families of the victims always blame the community, the associates they hang with, and the friends,” Hendershott said. “I have yet to hear the blame/cause of the relapse was the victim themselves because they did not have the necessary treatment to assist them in making the right decision. In our area there are no inpatient care facilities and the ones that are near Buffalo and Rochester have an actual waiting list.”

According to the chief, there was a case where parents had to take out a loan against their home to send a child to a rehabilitation facility in the Syracuse/Albany area. The person relapsed several times and the parents almost went bankrupt attempting to help their child. 

The legal aspects of an overdose victim have been approached by the State Legislature. Laws have been established to protect that victim seeking medical intervention in the event of an overdose. Section 220.78 of the New York State Penal Law sets in place laws that stop any arrest or prosecution of a victim of an overdose. 

The law states, in part: A person who, in good faith, seeks health care for someone who is experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose or other life-threatening medical  emergency shall not be charged or prosecuted for a controlled substance offense under article 220 or a marijuana offense under article 221 of this title, other than an offense involving sale for consideration or other benefit or gain, or charged or prosecuted for possession of alcohol by a person under age 21 years under section 65-C of the alcoholic beverage control law, or for possession of drug paraphernalia under article 39 of the general business law, with respect to any controlled substance, mariijuana, alcohol or paraphernalia that was obtained as a result of such seeking or receiving of health care.

“There are specific events that take place with an overdose, which benefits the victim and attempts to steer them in the direction of rehab and recovery,” Hendershott said. “However, as the State Department of Health has progressed the Naloxone program to the general public, we have found that Naloxone Overdose Kits – identical to the kits law enforcement and Emergency Medical Services carry – are being found in residences and vehicles of heroin addicts.

"With this program in place to the general public, it is believed that as the abusers of heroin overdose, they or their friends initiate the naloxone, bring them back as if nothing has happened and the abuse continues without any intervention.”

Whereas when the Naloxone Program was initially sent out to the field for first responders, potential recovery efforts would have been offered and/or established for the addicts. Now, with the naloxone available to the general public and the addicts themselves, no recovery efforts are offered or in are place. The abuse and addiction is more likely to continue. This may result in unreported cases of overdoses.

While the primary drug of choice in Attica is heroin, both Rudolph and Hendershott agree that the heroin issue in Wyoming County is comparable, per capita, to its neighboring counties.

“We (Village of Attica) have not had a death associated to an overdose for a few years, however the abuse of prescription drugs are significant,” Hendershott said. “We have found the gateway path for abuse of prescription drugs are theft from relatives, such as parents and grandparents. This is why we (law enforcement) have initiated a drug take back program – to remove old, outdated and unused prescription drugs from the households and dispose of them appropriately.”  

“The Wyoming County Drug Task Force has been diligent in the enforcement piece of the opiate problem,” Rudolph said. “But enforcement is only one prong, and equally as important as prevention and treatment. 

“To put it in perspective, a baggie of heroin has a current street value of merely $10 to $20. It has been closer to the $20 mark the last few months.”

The recovery rate for heroin addiction depends on when it's caught and treated. If caught early, recovery is substantially more successful.

See related: From the Mental Health Department's perspective: Heroin and Safe Injection Facilities; From the DA's perspective: Heroin and Safe Injection Facilities

Editor's note: This is part three of a three-part series on Safe Injection Facilities.

Friday, March 4, 2016 at 10:40 am
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, Warsaw, heroin.

Safe heroin injection facilities, a once seemingly radical idea, have cropped up in conversation more often as of late due to huge increases in overdose deaths nationwide.

For the record, Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O’Geen, is not in favor of them.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

Heroin use has increased across the United States among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Some of the greatest increases occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes. Not only are people using heroin, they are also abusing multiple other substances, especially cocaine and prescription opioid painkillers. As heroin use has increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, and more than 8,200 people died in 2013. States play a central role in prevention, treatment and recovery efforts for this growing epidemic.

In New York State, overdoses deaths involving heroin and other opiates shot from 186 in 2003 to 914 in 2012.

“The very fact that someone has even thought of something called 'a managed heroin injection facility' is disturbing by itself,” O'Geen said. “The fact that anyone would actually consider such a place is even more troubling. There is no doubt that most if not all of our communities have some sort of heroin problem and there are no easy answers. 

“Allowing people to just 'shoot up' is ludicrous and is actually inhumane. Feeding the addiction doesn’t stop it. Ignoring the addiction doesn’t stop it. Giving up on the problem doesn’t stop it. Fighting the heroin problem needs to be an all-of-the-above approach.”

In an article recently published by the Associated Press, the mayor of Ithaca wants his city to be “the first in the U.S. to offer a supervised injection facility. Heroin users would be able to shoot up under the care of a nurse without getting arrested by police.”

According to the article, Mayor Svante Myrick said the facility is one piece of a new approach he wants his city to take against the scourge of addiction. The facility would also connect addicts to recovery services. 

“I would fight a facility like this in every way I could imagine,” O’Geen said. “I would not want to be a part of the massacre of heroin addicts.”

When compared to nearby counties – Genesee, Erie, Cattaraugus, and Allegany – per capita Wyoming County experiences just as many heroin-related crimes, deaths and uses of Naxolone than its neighbors.While O’Geen is not opposed to first responders having the lifesaving drug, he doesn’t think promoting it to the general public is a good idea. 

“The word on the street is becoming one of 'go ahead and use, and if I OD then someone will just use the Narcan to save me.' ” That is a dangerous message. We have gone from 'don’t do drugs' to 'well, if you do drugs and you go too far we will come and save you.' That is just not a responsible policy. However, if by having the Naxolone, just like our first responders have other life-saving drugs and equipment at their disposal, they save a life that is great thing.”

O’Geen would like to see a law enacted requiring a mandatory 30-day mental health in-patient hold – in the form of drug treatment – before the person is released. Providing the Naxolone and not providing mandatory treatment is just allowing the cycle to continue without trying to help them. According to the DA, a three-pronged approach is needed: stop the supply, treat the user, and educate the medical community.

O’Geen believes we should go “back to the day” of holding dealers accountable for peddling the drugs, and acknowledge that selling heroin on the street corner today amounts to a violent crime.

“Letting our political leaders in NYC tell us that it’s a non-violent crime is a disservice to the families who have had loved ones die. We have to call it for what it is before we can stop it.”

Addiction of any kind is very hard to break and that is especially true of the heroin or opiate addict. While treatment is a means of getting people off of the drug, long-term treatment may be a better option for rehabilitation.

“Long-term – 12 to 18 month – residential facilities are the answer, not just 28-day programs and not just outpatient programs. All three are needed. We need insurance companies to stop being the reason why people can’t go to treatment when they are willing to go. We need our policy makers to fund treatment centers so there are beds available when they are needed. We need funding for detox centers. We need the recovering addicts to get jobs to get them back to work and productive members of society.”

Finally, a “serious conversation” with the medical community, licensing boards, and others involved in dispensing prescription drugs is needed. O’Geen wants to see a system put in place that is able to control the dispensing of these controlled substances regardless of the inconvenience of the medical world.

“How many of us have had a medical procedure and gone home with a 30-day supply of hydrocodone when we really only need a one or two-day supply. First do no harm, right? The ISTOP program, aggressive enforcement of pill mills and educating the medical world has made some headway in this area however we can and must do more.”

The interesting thing is, Wyoming County’s Treatment Court is able to accomplish a lot of these things, O’Geen reports. However, there are areas where it is lacking due to funding or the limited number of in-patient beds.

“We are proud of our program. It is the people within the program that have the best chance of finding solutions that work. This is an area where the answers come from the bottom to the top and not the other way around. In other words, listen to the experts.”

Editor's note: This is part one in a three-part series on heroin safe injection facilities.


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