A Look Back at the Opioid Crisis in 2017Posted: Updated:
Events this past year have dramatically reshaped the course of the opioid epidemic in the Southern Tier.
It started just 10 days into County Executive Jason Garnar's term when he declared the epidemic a public health emergency. Prompted to do so after learning that Broome County's overdose death rate was three times high than that of the state.
“I hope we don’t have to get to 200, 300, 400 people dying in Broome County before we say, let’s get people what they need, let’s protect people," said Garnar.
Unofficial numbers from the Broome County District Attorney's Office show that 68 people have died due to overdosing this year, down just one from 2016. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the county is still considered a "high-intensity drug trafficking area."
In July, Broome District Attorney Steve Cornwell announced that law enforcement agencies will start to track overdoses on a real-time mapping system.
"It’s going to allow all the agencies to dedicate resources to the area that needs it and be able to tell the clusters in the village, city or town where the overdoses are taking place, so the local 1st responders the police agencies patrol those areas so everyone will be able to target the problem," said Cornwell.
Heroin and opioid have become too big for politics as local Republicans and Democrats worked together to push for more resources and education to fight big drug companies. Garnar eventually announced his plans to turn the former Broome Developmental Center into a Drug Treatment Facility but the approval didn't come without a fight.
Earlier in December, Republican Legislators said they planned to hold off a vote to accept $2.7 million in state money to fund the project until the new year. The group claimed they didn't receive enough information from Garnar and the state but five days later, addiction support advocates, families who have lost loved ones to opioids, and Republican State Senator Fred Akshar to urge the Legislature to bring it to a vote this year.
The hard work and bi-partisan effort paid off as the Legislature voted 11-to-four in favor of accepting the state funding. The decision marked a big victory for Democrat Jason Garnar who delivered on his campaign pledge to provide support for the crisis as he finishes out his first term as County Executive.
All of this as Narcan has become more accessible to the public with regular training being held in communities big and small across the Southern Tier.