So what's the solution?
As the new year brings fresh leadership and a host of economic imperatives to Chautauqua County, the exploding heroin epidemic - and the drug problem at large - may seem more a distant specter than an urgent, life-saving priority.
County Executive-elect Vince Horrigan, while certainly acknowledging the epidemic, has yet to offer any specifics on curbing the drug's proliferation, opting instead to hold a forum sometime after he assumes office this week, in which the problem - along with possible solutions - can be addressed further.
"I want to first get a good handle on what we have out there," Horrigan said. "I think it's appropriate to take a step back and really figure out where we are today, so that we can make the best possible decisions going forward."
Horrigan, who described the forum as an "important priority," but one amidst several non-drug-related initiatives, will likely find himself under enormous pressure by critics who think the heroin epidemic is grossly overlooked and not taken seriously by county leadership.
Rick Huber, executive director of Jamestown's Mental Health Association, has frequently voiced such concerns, indicting county officials for taking a rather lax approach to fixing the so-called "broken system" of drug rehabilitation.
"I think it's appropriate to take a step back and really figure out where we are today, so that we can make the best possible decisions going forward."
"We work directly with addicts daily," Huber said. "We get the real stories as to what's going on, and most people out there don't know about it because they're not being told."
Huber, who cites examples of addicts being turned away at emergency rooms, families resorting to bogus doctors for paid prescriptions and young people feigning suicide to get medical attention, questions whether politicians are doing enough to inform the public and curtail the bureaucratic "red tape" that so often surrounds drug treatment and services.
"If we have so many young people dying around here, why can't we figure out a way around these issues?" Huber asked. "We have all the resources within the community to deal with this right, but we're not doing it."
The response from county legislators has indeed been scant, with many focusing more on the supply side of the problem as opposed to the demand.
"This is not a legislative issue per se ... this is a law enforcement issue," said John Runkle, R-Stockton and chairman of the Audit and Control Committee. "Nobody has - quite frankly - presented (the heroin issue) to us as an epidemic at this point in time."
Mark Tarbrake, R-Jamestown, followed suit by quickly praising law enforcement officials and their frequent drug arrests, insisting - unlike Huber - that "we're starting to turn the corner" and "make progress."
Solutions to reducing demand were more vague, typically culminating in the need for greater funding.
P.J. Wendell, R-Lakewood and soon-to-be chairman of the Public Safety Committee, voiced concern over this.
"I don't think spending taxpayer money on people who've made bad choices is the best way to spend our money, and I think a lot of people would agree to that," Wendell said. "Bottom line, it's the person himself ... you can go to all the treatments in the world, but if you're a user ... it has to do with the person and the families."
Wendell's emphasis on personal responsibility is a vast contrast to Huber's mantra of "addiction being a disease, not a choice," and is indicative of the differing perspectives involved in this issue.
In many ways, the apparent disconnect between those in power and those closer to the street has likely stymied efforts for real reform, leaving hundreds of addicts - many of whom are young people desperate to get better-suspended in a perpetual cycle of crime, incarceration and recidivism.
"This is a multi-faceted problem," said Horrigan, emphasizing the importance of bringing people together, from law enforcement and health care personnel to non profits and educators. "Working together is going to be an important theme in my administration. I think we need to understand all the aspects of (this problem) ... what is the scope ... what are the options ... where are the most effective treatment centers located ... and what are we currently doing."
According to Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, people can voice their concerns right now.
"Sometimes people need to get angry about stuff," Nazzaro said. "I would like to see people from law enforcement and the treatment end come to the legislature. I would like to see a report of where the problem areas are and what we can do to help. To me, this is more important or as important than the other issues we deal with by far."
Indeed, effecting change may be closer than anticipated. Perhaps it's simply a matter of getting angrier.