IRVING – Local leaders, health professionals, members of law enforcement, and education officials gathered in the north county Wednesday to address the growing problem of heroin and other opioids in Western New York.
Recognizing the gravity of the epidemic and the reality of widespread heroin and opioid abuse, Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr. and other Seneca tribal leaders Wednesday joined Senator Cathy Young (R-Olean) and several other state representatives in co-hosting an historic joint forum to address heroin and opioid addiction in local communities. The event took place on the Cattaraugus Reservation outside of Irving.
Among those in attendance was Senator Phil Boyle, who chairs the New York State Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction.
Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan also took part in the forum, which marked the first time that state and tribal governments have joined forces and held an official joint effort.
Heroin has become a growing epidemic across the nation with families devastated by addiction. The drug has also been a growing problem in Western New York, and communities in Chautauqua County, Cattaraugus County, the Seneca territories have not been exempt from the negative impact.
According to reports, New York State accounts for about 20 percent of the heroin seized by the federal drug agents, with the rate of seizures in New York growing by 67 percent over the last five years alone. Opioid and heroin overdoses in New York also killed over 2,000 people in 2011 – that’s twice as many people as it did in 2004.
As reported by the Post-Journal, Chautauqua County also experienced an increase in felony and misdemeanor drug arrests last year. At 399, drug arrests were up from an average of 359 over the previous nine years. In Jamestown, the number of drug arrests relating specifically to heroin increased dramatically, from just nine in 2011 to 27 in 2013.
Senator Young said that because heroin abuse has grown to overwhelming levels, she and other officials recognized the need to work together on finding effective solutions. They will take the input gathered from Wednesday’s forum and use it to help craft legislation in the ongoing battle against the drug.