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April 2, 2019 - 5:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in opioids, news.

A $270 million lawsuit settlement between OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and the state of Oklahoma got the attention of members of the Genesee County Legislature and made them wonder about the status of a class-action lawsuit the county has joined with other counties in New York.

The purpose of the suits is to seek compensation from Purdue Pharma for costs associated with the opioid epidemic.

Purdue is being accused of deceptive marketing practices and providing doctors with incorrect or misleading information about the addictive nature of OxyContin.

County Attorney Kevin Earl contacted the lead attorney New York counties' suit and reported back to the Human Services Committee on Monday that there isn't much new to report.

The suit is progressing but the lead attorney asked him not to say much about it publicly.

The suit is currently in the discovery phase (finding and sharing evidence that might be used at trial) with an expected trial date this fall.

As the trial date approaches, a settlement is always possible.

February 7, 2019 - 3:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, opioids, GOW task force.

Press release:

On Wednesday Jan. 23, the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming (GOW) Opioid Task Force met and hosted their quarterly meeting. Nearly 100 people were in attendance and represented numerous community sectors across the tri-county region.

Paul Pettit, Public Health director of Genesee and Orleans counties, kicked off the meeting by welcoming all in attendance and acknowledging key Task Force members such as the Steering Committee, Work Group members and chairs, and the Greater Rochester Health Foundation. Pettit also asked for a moment of silence for those we have lost to addiction this year and those who are still struggling.  

Pettit and Laura Paolucci, Wyoming County Public Health administrator, then provided a brief history of the Task Force, which included a historical overview of the opioid crisis at a national, state and local level.

Pettit said locally there has been a steady incline over the several years of opioid overdose deaths in the GOW region. In 2015 death totals related to opioid overdoses equaled 17, in 2016 they equaled 31 and in 2017 they reached a peak of 39. Pettit also shared data points related to opioid overdose death rate per 100,000 for each county, known naloxone (Narcan) administration data for the region, and emergency department visits categorized as drug overdose for the region.

Pettit and Paolucci concluded their presentation with a brief overview of how the Task Force was formed and what the first quarterly meeting was like in January, 2017. 

The GOW Opioid Task Force has numerous Work Groups who collaborate across the region to ensure the objectives of the task force are met. Each Work Group chair provided a brief update as to what has taken place in 2018, what to look forward to in 2019, and how to join a Work Group.

Data Work Group Chair, Clement Nsiah, Population Health Improvement Program coordinator at Population Health Collaborative, shared recent and up-to-date data for 2018. Nsiah said opioid overdose deaths in the GOW region for 2018 were at 30. Nsiah noted this data is not yet conclusive as there are still 11 cases pending confirmation from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Report.

Furthermore, Nsiah reported known naloxone administration in the GOW region has remained the same from 2017 to 2018 at 164 known administrations and emergency departments reported a decline in visits categorized as drug overdoses across the region with 247 reported in 2017 and 186 reported in 2018.

The Naloxone Work Group Chair, Charlotte Crawford, chief executive officer at Lake Plains Community Care Network, reported the Work Group collected trained 1661 individuals in the use and administration of naloxone/Narcan in the GOW region and a total of 1,555 kits were distributed across the region. 

Sharon Legette-Sobers from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation spoke about a grant they awarded to the GOW Opioid Task Force in May (2018) and shared some insight as to why the task force was a recipient of this grant.

The task force received a three-year grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and many of the efforts of the task force are supported via the  grant. Allison Parry-Gurak, project coordinator for the task force and with Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, then identified grant outcomes and objectives and provide a brief update as to where the Task Force in regard to completing these outcomes.

Parry-Gurak said the GOW Opioid Task Force currently has more than 300 members from across the tri-county region. Members represent various sectors of the community, including public health, mental health, human services, local government, substance use disorder treatment and recovery agencies, law enforcement, EMS, faith-based groups, health systems and medical practitioners, education, businesses, concerned individuals and families.

In addition, numerous efforts have taken place since the start of the grant, with a focus on reducing the number of deaths attributed to opioids in the GOW region and stopping the increase in opioid-related overdoses.

Tall Girl Design, a marketing and website design company from Lockport, launched the official task force logo and kicked off the website for the task force. 

The meeting concluded with the introduction of the task force evaluators from the Center for Human Services Research at the University at Albany, Center for Addiction Research at the University at Albany, and Albany Medical Center and College who shared who they are as well as their intended implementation plan.

The next GOW Opioid Task Force meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 24, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Please visit the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force website here for more information.

October 7, 2018 - 4:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in opioids, GCASA, batavia, news, notify.


To deal with the opioid crisis in New York, the state needs to an embrace an "all of the above" approach to find a way to keep people alive, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a visit to Batavia on Thursday.

Hochul was in town for a ribbon cutting at the new methodone clinic at GCASA. During her remarks Hochul talked about how the opioid crisis has led to tragedy in her own family, with a dose of heroin laced with fentanyl claiming the life of her nephew.

In an short interview after her remarks, Hochul said an "all of the above" approach could include consideration of safe injection sites. She was a little more vague about whether the state would consider following Portugal's lead, which decriminalized drug possession 18 years ago and established a program to help addicts find meaningful work, and as a result cut addiction rates in half and reduced overdose deaths to 30 to 50 a year, about 1/50th the rate of the United States. Prior to 2001, Portugal was known as the heroin capital of Europe.

"I don’t know we’re prepared to say anything about following a particular model," Hochul said. "We are considering all options is all I can say. If people have ideas, please bring them forward."

During her remarks, Hochul talked about her role, along with other state officials, of crisscrossing the state, meeting with residents and people on the frontlines of the opioid crisis. The result was legislation that not only led to the $850,000 grant to build the methodone clinic at GCASA but was recently amended to allow for medical marijuana to treat chronic pain. The legislation also attempts to eliminate the waiting time for an addict to get into treatment.

"We’re trying to figure out how do we stop people from dying literally in the streets and in their homes," Hochul told The Batavian.

Besides the methadone clinic, guests at the ribbon cutting were able to tour a new mobile treatement clinic that will allow GCASA staff to travel throughout the region and meet with addicts where they live, eliminating the need for them to travel to Batavia. It is important to note, the mobile clinic will not include a methadone dispensary, which by law must be at the approved facility in Batavia.

"That is why this is such a hopeful day for me," Hochul said while discussing the changes at GCASA. "To see what we can bring here, a new facility, an expansion, a mobile unit, which may look like an RV, recreational vehicle, but to me that’s a recovery vehicle."

Thursday, the governor's office also announced $900,000 in funding for 17 detox beds at GCASA. Director John Bennett showed off floor plans for a new detox facility on the East Main Street property.

"We often talk about going to treatment but we forget that before you can go into treatment, you have to go through detox," said Arlene González-Sánchez, commissioner of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. "Detox is really critical. Detrox is not treatment. It is the beginning of treatment and we’re so happy that we’re able to say that we will be able to have some detox beds in this whole region."

Brian Paris, president of the GCASA board, praised Bennett and the rest of the GCASA staff for their hard work in helping to establish the methadone clinic, the mobile unit, and soon the detox facility.

"We live in a changing world and GCASA is changing to support that changing world," Paris said.

Hochul's nephew, she said, started on his path to addiction after being prescribed painkillers when he cut his hand on a meat slicing machine in a delicatessen where he was working.

"That led to addiction, led to the streets, led to a decade of putting his mother and our family through hell as he tried to find a path forward," Hochul said.

The family thought he was past his addiction and on the right path. He was a graduate student at University of Buffalo  and a mentor to others trying to kick the habit. After he broke up with a girlfriend he slipped and tried one dose and died as a result.

"Be proud that your state has not run from this problem," Hochul said. "We have leaned into this problem."

NOTE: I took pictures of the ribbon cutting. I thought I imported those pictures in PhotoShop (Lightroom). I reformatted the card for another assignment and discovered later I hadn't imported the pictures. They are lost. My apologies to those involved.

September 7, 2018 - 1:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in opioids, steve hawley, GCASA.

Press release:

The Finger Lakes region will be among 35 statewide recipients of federal funding through the Opioid State Target Response Grant, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced Thursday.

The initiative, which will appropriate $25.2 million in grants across the state to aid in the fight against substance abuse, provides assistance to programs that offer prevention, treatment and recovery services, increasing access to treatment for individuals in high-need areas in an effort to combat this statewide crisis.

The Opioid State Target Response Grant program, currently in its second year, announced Genesee County will be among 19 new counties that will receive funding to assist in the fight against opioid abuse this year. The Genesee Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA) will directly benefit from this support, receiving a $650,000 grant through the program.

Additional programs throughout the Finger Lakes region will receive grants through this federally-funded program, including the Delphi Drug and Alcohol Council Inc.

“The far-reaching effects of the heroin and opioid epidemic are well documented, not only here in our community, but across our state and nation,” Hawley said. “As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to pursue any and all opportunities to secure support, at both the state and federal level, to assist the dedicated programs providing recovery and addiction treatment to the individuals affected by this statewide crisis.

"I am thrilled to see our community among the recipients of these grants and will remain committed to protecting our local families from the dangers of opioid abuse.”

To discuss the ongoing work being done to fight heroin and opioid abuse in our community, or any additional state matters, please contact Hawley’s district office at 585-589-5780. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, assistance can be found by calling state's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).

August 1, 2018 - 4:01pm
posted by Billie Owens in opioids, addiction, methadone, GCASA, batavia, news.

Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA) is very pleased to announce that the Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) will open on Aug. 13. This will allow patients to receive methadone to treat their addiction.

GCASA has been providing Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) since 2004. Like many other diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, patients require medication to treat their medical conditions.

Dr. Matthew Fernaays, GCASA’s medical director, has prescribed naltrexone and buprenorphine for patients for several years, with great success for some patients. But they don’t work for all patients. With the opening of the OTP, he will be able to prescribe methadone to treat a patient’s addiction, increasing access to appropriate treatment services for residents in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

Kathy Hodgins, senior services director at GCASA, said “The ability to provide methadone treatment in our rural area will help so many people in our community. Those who are unable to drive to Buffalo or Rochester daily will be able to access the care they need to treat their addiction right here in Batavia. This is huge for our community.”

Methadone is highly regulated and monitored. Licenses were obtained by NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Research shows that most communities with similar programs have decreased rates of crime because people are able to get the help they need, instead of having to steal to maintain their drug use.

GCASA is very excited to be able to offer this treatment to help fight the opioid crisis.

“We want to see people in recovery," says Executive Director John Bennett. "We are working hard to fill in the gaps that currently exist in treatment services. We know that there are many pathways to recovery and we are grateful to be able to provide another path with methadone.” 

GCASA has been serving Genesee and Orleans counties for more than 40 years. Services include prevention education and outpatient and residential treatment for individuals with substance use disorders; and an employee assistance program. For more information, please call 585-343-1124 or visit our website at gcasa.net.

GCASA is located at 430 E. Main St. in the City of Batavia.

June 26, 2018 - 10:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, opioids, news.

Press release:

Congressmen Chris Collins (NY-27) applauded the House passage of a package of bills that take action to fight the opioid epidemic, including the passage of H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act.

The SUPPORT Act includes dozens of bills that passed the House over the past two weeks, in addition to the base text which includes provisions that previously passed the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees.

“Throughout the past two weeks, the House has been devoted to the thousands of Americans struggling with addiction, their families, and our communities in our work to end this deadly crisis,” Collins said.

“Serving on the Energy and Commerce Committee, we have put an enormous amount of time and effort into studying addiction, listening to struggling families, reviewing the supply chain, and immersing ourselves into the communities that have been ravaged by this crisis. It was a heart-wrenching process, but we came up with common-sense, bipartisan solutions that will save lives.”

The opioid epidemic is claiming more than 115 lives each day, destroying families in communities across the nation. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Collins helped craft a legislative package that would address the many issues that have led to this crisis and would implement solutions to end this epidemic.

Starting in October, the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee pursued an aggressive timeline to produce this legislation prior to Memorial Day. In May, 57 bills were advanced to the House of Representatives, which have passed the House throughout the past two weeks. Collins worked with colleagues across-the-aisle to co-author several pieces of legislation.

Collins joined fellow New Yorker, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries in introducing the Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2017 that would require the Surgeon General to report to Congress the public health effects of the rise of synthetic drug use by 12- to 18-year-olds. Currently, Congress does not have sufficient information to craft the unique types of public health and law enforcement approaches that could save our nation’s children from these dangerous substances.

Collins also introduced the Eliminating Opioid Related Infectious Diseases Act of 2018 with Congressman Leonard Lance, Congressman Joseph Kennedy, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congressman Joe Barton, and Congresswoman Doris Matsui that focuses specifically on how the opioid epidemic has contributed to an increase in infectious diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. Increased monitoring and education will lead to a better understanding of the impacts that this crisis is having on public health.

Building on the efforts of the Medicaid DRUG Improvement Act, Collins introduced an amendment with Congressman Scott Peters and Congressman Peter Welch that would require states to identify and address inappropriate prescribing and billing practices under Medicaid. States are currently authorized to implement prescription drug monitoring activities through their prescription drug monitoring programs and claims data, but not all states have adopted such activities.

In addition to working with the Energy and Commerce Committee, Collins worked with the Committee on Ways and Means and Congressman Tom MacArthur on introducing the Stop Excessive Narcotics in Our Retirement (SENIOR) Communities Protection Act. The SENIOR Communities Protection Act allows Medicare Advantage Part D plans to suspend payments to a provider or supplier pending an investigation of a credible allegation of fraud or abuse, as determined by the Inspector General. This legislation will help in preventing future “pill mills” from occurring.

Finally, Collins introduced legislation with Congressman Eric Paulson, Congressman Ron Kind, and Congressman Connor Lamb that would require Medicare to send an annual notice to Part D patients about the adverse effects associated with prolonged opioid use. By improving awareness and education, the Medicare Clear Health Options in Care for Enrollees (CHOICE) Act will help patients be more inclined to watch for the warning signs of addiction and be more informed to talk with their doctors on their options for pain management.

Collins added: “In every community across our nation we have brokenhearted families, which is why we need immediate action. I’m thankful for President Trump’s dedication to this issue and urge the Senate to get these important bills on his desk.”

October 3, 2017 - 12:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in opioids, news, notify.

Genesee County will join the trend of local governments suing pharmaceutical companies over the opioid epidemic in an attempt to recover costs related to treating and dealing with addiction.

County Attorney Kevin Earl has recommended the Legislature sign a contract with the law firm of Napoli Shkolnik, which is based in New York City.

Earl interviewed two law firms and following negotiations selected Napoli as the best option, primarily because the financial terms were more favorable to the county.

Napoli agreed to cap their costs at 25 percent of any settlement (instead of a sliding scale that went up to 40 percent) for both the initial lawsuit and any appeals.

"Both of them would advance all of the costs of litigation," Earl said. "Also both of them we would say if they don't win, the county doesn't have to reimburse them for any of the cost and expenses. So, the county doesn't have to upfront anything or reimburse them. The only cost to the county would be some time obviously. The law firms are going to have to have information about our different costs and expenditures."

Many of the costs to the county are on the social services side, Earl said, especially dealing with parents who have become addicted.

"They're (social service workers) finding a great deal of their time and effort on trying to, first of all, rehabilitate parents because of the drug problem and then terminating parental rights when it becomes necessary. So that's that's a big cost."

In these lawsuits, being filed by municipal governments around the nation, pharmaceutical companies are being accused of flooding the market with prescription pain pills, using deceptive means to promote pain medication to doctors, and misrepresenting the addictive power of the medications, spurring an opioid epidemic that has led to the spread of heroin in local communities.

A total of 19 pharmaceutical companies have been targeted by these lawsuits.

Earl was also able to negotiate away a term in the contract that could have stuck the county with expenses related to the law firm borrowing money to proceed with the suit.

"They had something in there that if they had to borrow money we have got to pay the interest on the borrowed money," Earl said. "I said well the whole reason we got you was we thought you were a big firm and you have the money. I couldn't handle the lawsuit when I was a sole practitioner of a case like this because I couldn't advance that type of money, so they took that out completely."

While the suit on behalf of Genesee County should be filed within months, if not weeks, Earl expects the suit, on a motion by the pharmaceutical companies, will be consolidated with other similar lawsuits. In a way, at that point, Genesee County will benefit from the expertise and experience of both the big law firms handling these cases.

Even so, it will be a long time before the county sees any money from a settlement (assuming victory).

"It's going to probably be a long process," Earl said. "I look at this as similar to the tobacco cases. You know these pharmaceutical companies are going to fight tooth and nail, and they know if they settle in New York that opens the floodgates and then another state and another state and another state, so I would imagine this will take a number of years."

August 11, 2017 - 11:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, opioids, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today reacted to President Trump’s announcement that he will declare a national emergency on opioid abuse:

“I stand with President Trump in recognizing the extreme severity of the opioid crisis in America and applaud the steps being taken to find solutions to this devastating problem. Far too many lives have been lost and we have seen firsthand the tragedy that so many families in Western New York and across America face.”

Congressman Collins is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee that crafted the 21st Century Cures Act, which provided $1 billion in grants to address the crisis. Of those funds, $25.3 million were awarded to New York state. In May 2016, Collins voted in favor of 18 bills that address addiction among our veterans, to babies infected with this disease, to current pain management best practices.

“I applaud Governor Christie and his team for their diligent work in finding solutions for treatment and prevention. Opioid addiction can impact anyone, and we will continue to combat this crisis as a team because more needs to be done."

As a member of the Health and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittees, Collins has participated in six subcommittee hearings discussing the government and states responses to the crisis, fentanyl, and professional and academic perspectives.

For more information on the work of the Energy and Commerce Committee on opioids, click here.

July 7, 2017 - 10:58am
posted by Maria Pericozzi in opioids, news, batavia, notify.

There have been multiple lawsuits filed by state and local governments around the nation against major drug manufacturers over their marketing and distribution of opioids, and Genesee County officials are thinking about becoming one of the plaintiffs.

Several counties in New York are part of the effort to pin at least some of the financial burden for the opiate epidemic on pharmaceutical companies.

County Attorney Kevin Earl is researching the feasibility of the county filing suit, either individually as a member of a multi-plaintiff action, against major drug manufacturers to recover current and future damages to the county taxpayers from abuse of opioid pharmaceuticals.

“If you want, [I can] investigate whether it would be better for us to join an existing lawsuit or (file) on our own,” Earl said at the Ways and Means Committee meeting on Wednesday.

Finding out the costs and expenses needed is something Earl will be researching as well.

Earl said most counties are doing research, then bringing a recommendation back to the legislative body.

Committee Member Raymond Cianfrini said every state is beginning to go after pharmaceutical companies in that regard.

“I don’t see a problem with us piggybacking on somebody else in a class-action lawsuit,” Cianfrini said. “But, we need to know who is going to do it, what it’s going to cost us, [and] what are the time frames.”

May 13, 2016 - 3:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in congressman chris collins, news, opioids, drug addiction.

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed 18 pieces of legislation this week to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic.

“The opioid epidemic continues to devastate communities here in Western New York,” Congressman Collins said. “There is no silver bullet to fix this issue, but the bipartisan legislative items passed this week will help communities across America educate individuals about the dangers of opioid abuse and work to eradicate this severe epidemic. What is clear is that all levels of government need to be doing everything they can to help tackle this issue before more lives are lost.”

Here is a complete list of the bills that passed the House of Representatives this week. Among the bills are pieces of legislation that establish new grant programs to help local communities, increase opportunities for veterans to become emergency medical technicians, and expand efforts to reduce the overprescribing of opioids. 

Eleven of these bills were passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which Congressman Collins is a member.

May 13, 2016 - 8:00am
posted by Traci Turner in heroin addiction, batavia, elba, GCASA, opioids.


(Two doses of Narcan, a medication used to reverse opioid overdose, with a nosepiece applicator are kept in every road bag at the Batavia Police Department.)

Jenna Brown was an honor student and captain of the cheerleading squad at Elba High School. Like any typical teenage girl, Brown wanted to fit in so she drank and experimented with drugs to get her peers to like her. She found partying to be empowering and never thought addiction would happen to her. Although she had a lot of friends, she felt alone.

In 2012, she graduated from high school and went off to Alfred State College to get an associate degree in Nursing. Everything seemed to be fine until she went through a bad breakup during her first year. She was shattered inside and didn’t know how to cope.

Brown’s mom, Kathy Miller, noticed some changes in her daughter’s behavior but just thought she was trying to find her way.

“She would call at all different times, sometimes crying, sometimes homesick, sometimes sounding lost and sometimes happy,” Miller said. “That first semester was chaotic.”

In an attempt to make new friends, Brown started partying again and met a guy. After hanging out with him several times and watching him make frequent trips to the bathroom, she discovered he was using heroin. By then her drinking was out of control and she was curious about using. The guy helped her inject her first hit of heroin.

“I loved it and hated it at the same time,” Brown said. “I hated it for the way it physically made me feel but mentally it was the solution for me. It helped take away the loneliness. When I did heroin, I didn’t care about being alone.”

Heroin use has more than doubled among young adults ages 18 to 25 in the past decade according to the Centers for Disease Control. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health stated 2.4 million people abused or were dependent on opioids including heroin and prescription painkillers. Opiates are drugs derived from the opium poppy. Opioids are synthetic or semi-synthetic drugs that are manufactured to work in a similar way to opiates. The term opioid is used to describe the entire class of opiates including natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic.

Over the last few years, Genesee County has seen the opioid epidemic on the rise. Genesee Orleans County on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has about 100 patients on Suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid addiction. Approximately one-third of individuals in Genesee County Drug Treatment Court are opiate dependent.


(Nicole Desmond, drug court treatment coordinator, Judge Robert Balbick and Jeffrey Smith, project director for the 8thJudicial District.)

“We have been doing treatment court for 15 years,” said Judge Robert Balbick, who runs Genesee County Drug Treatment Court. “Opiate addiction has changed the way we look at treatment because we’re dealing with a deadly situation.”

Due to the high risk of overdose, quick access to treatment is crucial. Throughout the program, Nicole Desmond, drug court treatment coordinator, strictly monitors participants’ progress by getting weekly updates from them and issuing random drug testing. The program lasts an average of 18 months. If participants relapse, the team takes immediate measures to get them into inpatient treatment to prevent overdose.

In 2015, 15 deaths were caused by drug-induced overdoses in the county according to the Genesee County Health Department. Prescription opiates were used in combination with other prescription drugs and/or illicit drugs that contributed to at least six deaths. An illicit opiate was used in combination with prescription drugs that contributed to at least two additional deaths.

“Heroin is increasing steadily to the point where now we are dealing with overdoses,” said Det. Sgt. Todd Crossett at the Batavia Police Department. “It’s all over and it’s become a lot more dangerous than cocaine was because it’s being laced with synthetic fentanyl which you don’t know what you’re having until you inject it and it’s too late.”

Drug dealers cut the heroin with fentanyl, the strongest opioid used for medical purposes, to increase the potency. This deadly trend has led to a recent surge of overdose deaths. Batavia police officers carry Narcan, a drug used to reverse opioid overdose, in their cars. When they respond to a potential overdose call, the needle is often times nearby in the presence of fentanyl.

“If they have gotten fentanyl in the drug the needle may still be in them because fentanyl is so fast acting they might not have been able to put the stuff away,” Crossett said.


(Todd Crossett of the Batavia Police Department with the supplies bag that every road officer carries in their car.)

Andrew London, a 24-year-old recovering alcoholic and opioid addict, recently lost a close friend to a heroin overdose. She passed away a month before he could give her a tree of life necklace he bought her for Christmas.

“As soon as you see someone close to you use and die, it hits you,” London said. “It was one of the saddest things I have ever experienced.”

London has been convicted of two DWIs and has been receiving treatment on and off for alcohol addiction since he was 18 years old. He became addicted to opioids after being prescribed hydrocodone for back pain in August 2011. As a result, he started misusing the painkiller and violated his probation.

“Drugs don’t discriminate,” London said. “Overdoses can happen to anyone.”

In particular, however, women, the privately insured and people with higher incomes are those with the highest increase in heroin use according to the CDC.

“This is truly a white middle-class problem,” said John Bennett, executive director at GCASA. “We are not talking about street junkies anymore. Many addicts function like normal people.”

For a while, Brown, the 21-year-old recovering heroin addict, was able to maintain her addiction and continued getting good grades. She was playing two different people and no one had any idea that she was a heroin addict. However, on the inside she hated herself.

"Advances in Psychiatric Treatment," a medical journal, report 48 percent of opioid users have experienced depression at some point in their lives.

“One of the biggest things with addiction that people don’t understand is that 99 percent of the people that walk through our doors are in some kind of emotional or physical pain,” said Shannon Murphy, director of treatment at GCASA. “To ask them to stop taking it, is like having a raw open nerve.”

Brown’s next high was always in the back of her mind. Her addiction spun out of control after she graduated college in December 2014. She moved back home in Elba and her parents found out she was using. She overdosed several times. Her mom took her to Erie County Medical Center but the doctors sent her back home because she wasn’t using enough bags in a day for inpatient treatment. She attempted to stop using on her own but the withdrawal symptoms were too severe.

“She would try to go through withdrawal but it was awful for her and for me,” Miller said. “She was so thin, so frail and so sickly. Her beautiful blue eyes sunken in and gone, replaced by lifeless empty sockets. She had such pale, bluish-gray skin.”

Brown was ashamed for putting her parents and siblings through everything. However, she was afraid to get sober because she never thought she would feel good.

“People always tried to scare me into getting sober,” Brown said. “I wasn’t afraid to die. I was afraid of suffering. It got to a point where I either continued to kill myself or get help.”

She was tired of feeling sick and determined to try for something better. She started going to outpatient treatment at GCASA and was put on a waiting list for detox treatment at the Horizon Village Terrace House in Buffalo.

“I woke up at three in the afternoon and I was going to get high at four when my mom told me there was a bed available,” Brown said. “It was heaven to my ears but nails on a chalkboard. There is something taunting about knowing you could get high in an hour or be saved in an hour.”

In October, she completed the detox and started a 28-day inpatient rehab program at the Terrace House. During inpatient, she started taking Vivitrol, an injectable medication to prevent relapse for opioid dependence after detox.

Vivitrol is a trade name for naltrexone, one of the medications approved by the Federal Drug Administration to treat opioid addiction. The medication attaches to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks pleasurable feelings associated with opioids and reduces cravings. The blocking effect decreases over time so addicts must receive the shot each month by a healthcare professional. While receiving the medication, the addicted individuals cannot be using opioids or severe sickness and death may occur.

A more common medication is buprenorphine, an opioid partial agonist. The medication can produce opioid effects but the effects are less than a full opioid agonist such as heroin. Buprenorphine binds to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks the effects of other opioids that may be present in the bloodstream. Low doses allow addicts to stop misusing opioids without having withdrawal symptoms. If dosing is not heavily monitored, it can be easily abused.

Suboxone is one of the prescription formulas with buprenorphine and naloxone, medication used in Narcan. The daily medication is a digestible film that is dissolved under the tongue.

“We have patients who have been on it for years that say they don’t expect to ever get off this,” said Cheryle McCann, RN at GCASA. “As long as they have a prescriber who can take over for us, we don’t have a problem with that. It’s like someone who is on blood pressure medicine.”

However, finding a doctor who is willing to take a patient with a history of opioid dependence is difficult. There are currently three prescribers in the county.

“The biggest problem I see in our county right now is there are not many doctors in our community that will prescribe buprenorphine,” McCann said. “The DEA regulate buprenorphine more stringently than they regulate the prescribing of opioids. An opioid can be prescribed by a physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant and dentist. But buprenorphine can only be prescribed by a physician.”

According to Bennett, about 35 percent of their patients struggle with Suboxone so they offer Vivitrol as another option. In the future, he would like to get the treatment facility licensed to be a methadone clinic.

“Medicated assisted treatments are misunderstood by communities,” Bennett said. “Law enforcement and judges don’t always believe patients are clean while on the treatments. We need to look at opiate patients like heart or diabetic patients and support their treatment. Patients with addiction have better compliance with medication than patients with other diseases.”


(Cheryle McCann and John Bennett of GCASA sit on the bench where patients receive their monthly Vivitrol shots.)

In addition to the medicated assisted treatment, countless meetings, counseling, advice from other recovering addicts and faith in God taught Brown how to live day to day and helped her set a good foundation.

“At the end of the day I’m still a recovering addict and one drug away from being high,” Brown said. “Any day clean is a miracle.”

Once Brown completed the 28-day rehab program, she went to Horizon Village, a long-term residential rehab center, for three months. From there she moved into Casa De Vita, a halfway house, and made friends who she could call on all hours of the day and night. This was the first time she realized her friends genuinely cared about her wellbeing. Her mom also started attending Nar-Anon, a support group for families struggling with addiction in Batavia, to learn how she could support her daughter’s recovery.

Miller and Donna Rose, a mother whose son is addicted to heroin, will be hosting a heroin town hall meeting for parents of addicts at 6:30 p.m. May 17 at  Genesee Community College. The meeting will focus on treatment costs and denial of insurance for recovering addicts.

“I learned nothing I do will cure her disease but I can choose for myself to stay healthy, supportive and loving,” Miller said. “Everyday I’m thankful that Jenna is alive and I try to learn something that will prevent someone else from using. We need more heroin awareness. People need to start understanding the disease instead of judging it.”

Support from family and friends has also been important for London’s recovery.

After completing a 28-day inpatient treatment program at Hope Haven and several months at Atwater, GCASA’s halfway house, London has been clean for seven months. He currently goes to meetings at Horizon Health Services once a week. His pregnant wife and circle of friends he met while in recovery have been significant motivators for him to not relapse.

“I want to be there for my daughter and not have to see her on a visiting floor in jail,” London said. “I don’t want her to see me under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”


​(Andrew London, a recovering alcoholic and opioid addict, has been clean for seven months.)

Brown is looking to the future, too. She recently moved in with her sponsor and is applying for full-time jobs – and looking for an apartment.

“I’m able to look people in the eyes today and be at peace with things that happened in my life,” Brown said. “The greatest thing today is I don’t want to get high and that gives me a feeling of gratitude because I thought that was how to make friends. Now I can love myself and take my flaws as they come.”

March 26, 2016 - 1:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in opioids, crime victims week, addiction, mental health, news.

This information was provided by Sue Gagne, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties:

National Crime Victims' Rights Week is April 10-16. Communities nationwide, aided by the Office for Victims of Crime, will hold observances. This year's theme is "Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope" and the aim is to underscore the importance of early intervention and using victim services in establishing trust with victims in order to begin to restore their hope for healing and recovery.

In Genesee County, starting at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 15, there will be a Ceremoninal Walk and Reception at the Old County Courthouse (Downtown Batavia at the corner of routes 5 and 63). For more information, call Theresa at 344-2550, ext. 3920.

Prior to that date is Criminal Justice Day, Tuesday, April 12, and there will be a half-day event at Genesee Community College titled "The Opiate Epidemic: The Unintended Victims." It runs from 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Conable Technology Center, 1 College Road, Batavia.

Cost to attend is $10 per person; $5 for students. Seating is limited; first come, first served. Registration forms are due by April 4. Checks should be made payable to the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties. For more information, call 344-2611.

According to the event brochure, heroin use has increased across the United States among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Some of the greatest increases occured in deomgraphic groups with historically low rates of heroin use -- women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes.

Nor only are people using heroin more than ever, they are also abusing multiple other substances, especially cocaine and prescription opioid painkillers.

Law enforcement officials say history teaches that American society can't arrest its way out of the drug problems it faces. While effective enforcement is esstantial to protecting cities and neighborhoods, reducing drug use requires a broader, multidimensional approach.

Scientists say that it is clear that addiction is a progressive disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated and recovery is possible.

In addition to the college, the event on opioid addiction and its unintended victims is presented by these 2016 Criminal Justice Day partners:

  • Batavia Police Department
  • Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA)
  • GC District Attorney's Office
  • GC Sheriff's Office
  • GC Youth Bureau
  • Genesee Justice
  • Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties
  • RESTORE Sexual Assault Services
  • YWCA of Genesee County 

Keynote speakers are Mike Covert, police chief of Cooperstown, and Alexis Pleus, a structural engineer and mother of three sons who lost her oldest son to a heroin overdose in 2014.

Under Covert's leadership, the police department made a "revolutionary change" in the way it responds to the opiate crisis. He implemented an initiative last Thanskgiving called PAARI -- Police Assisting Addicts Toward Recovery Initiative. It allows addicts to walk into the Cooperstown Police Station with drug paraphernalia or drugs to ask for help and not be charged with a crime. Instead, they are walked through the system toward detox and recovery with the assistance of an assigned "ANGEL" who guides them through the process -- not in hours or days but on the spot. Since its implementation, 45 people have enrolled in the program.

Pleus has used her experience with addiction and the stigma she faced to start an organization called Truth Pharm, which works to raise awareness, reduce the stigma, implement programs, and advocate for policies that have a profound impact on the opioid epidemic.

The day's agenda is as follows:

8:15 to 8:45  -- Registration

8:45 to 9  -- Flag Raising

9 to 9:15 -- Welcome and Introductions

9:15 to 10:15 -- Keynote Speakers

10:15 to 10:30 -- Break

10:30 to 11:45 -- Panel Discussion: Impact on the Community

11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- Pharmacology of Opiates 


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