IRVING - State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, and the Seneca Nation of Indians announced that they will co-host a forum addressing the heroin and opioid addiction epidemic in New York state. It is a historic event because it is the first time state and tribal governments have held an official joint effort.
The event will be held at the Seneca Nation of Indians Cattaraugus Territory Cattaraugus Community Center, 12767 Route 438, Irving, today, from 1-4 p.m.
The Seneca Nation of Indians' Drug and Alcohol Abuse Task Force and Young, as a member of the New York State Senate's Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, are co-hosting a roundtable to examine the rise in heroin abuse, addiction treatment and prevention, and the potential for drug-related crime and other negative community impacts as a result of the burgeoning heroin and opioid abuse problem in Western New York.
The forum will include members of both task forces; law enforcement; treatment providers; local government officials; experts in the fields of education, mental health, and substance abuse; and other stakeholders and individuals from Chautauqua County, Cattaraugus County, the Seneca territories, and the surrounding area who have been directly affected by heroin and opioid abuse.
"This is a historic event. The New York State Senate and Seneca Nation leadership understand that the drug issue knows no boundaries, and we welcome the State's task force to our territory to work together toward a common goal," said Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr.
This past March, the Seneca Nation Tribal Council passed a resolution to establish its own dedicated Drug and Alcohol Abuse Task Force to develop a broad community-based approach to addressing drug and alcohol abuse and aid in reducing the negative impacts in the community. The task force committees will focus on community action and organization; enhancement of drug and alcohol treatment and preventative care; strategic enforcement with accountability through the courts; and expansion of social, cultural, educational, and other youth and family programs.
The state Senate's bipartisan Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction is chaired by Senator Phil Boyle (4th District), chairman of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and already has hosted 18 forums across the state, with members traveling over 8,000 miles, speaking with over 2,100 residents, and listening to over 53 hours of testimony. The task force has been formulating legislation and recommendations based on the input received at all of these forums, and will include information and testimony received at today's forum in a report. The package of proposals has so far focused on three key areas: preventing drug abuse and overdoses, increasing the availability and efficacy of addiction treatment, and enhancing the tools provided to law enforcement to keep heroin off the streets.
"This crisis knows no geographic boundaries and borders, which is why it is so important for New York state to work together with the Seneca Nation of Indians in addressing this growing epidemic. Families in every community and demographic have been affected. By working with the Seneca Nation in this unprecedented collaboration, we can address this shared challenge much stronger and more effectively," said Young.
The New York State Senate majority also took steps in response to this epidemic in the recently enacted 2014-15 state budget, with $2.45 million for initiatives to provide prevention, treatment, and addiction services for heroin and opioid abuse. Also, in March, the Senate passed legislation (S6477B) to help save lives by allowing authorized health care professionals to increase public access to Narcan/Naloxone which, if timely administered, can prevent overdose deaths.
Heroin's deadly effects are well established, and overdoses are on the rise across the state.
The Post-Journal reported in December the number of heroin-related arrests by the Jamestown Police Department jumped from nine in 2011 to 27 in 2013.
Data released by the Buffalo News reports that 29 people died of heroin overdoses in Erie County in 2013, "almost a third more than the year before." The Syracuse Post Standard similarly reported that heroin-related deaths "have climbed rapidly in Onondaga County - from two in 2010 to 24 in 2013." Newsday reported that heroin "killed a record 121 people in Nassau and Suffolk in 2012 and at least 120 last year - the two highest totals ever recorded." In New York City, the New York Times reported that "after several years of decline," heroin-related overdose deaths increased 84 percent from 2010 to 2012.