JAMESTOWN – It was a packed house at Jamestown Community College’s Scharman Theater Tuesday night as hundreds turned out to hear six different speakers offer an update and provide information in the fight against drug addiction.
The “Many Faces of Addiction” forum was organized by the city’s Health Care Action Team and featured six speakers focusing on various topics related to the issue, including public safety, stigma, human trafficking/sexual exploitation, challenges facing women and mothers, harm reduction, and spirituality/community connection.
Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings offered an update on how addiction has impacted public safety in recent years, saying that while the community has seen some positive changes recently, but also said the numbers indicate it’s still a long way off and there’s still a lot more work to do.
Snellings presented data that illustrates the rising demand for both illegal opioids and stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. He also talked about the increase in overdose calls in the area, pointing out that there was 68 calls in 2015, but through the first 10 months of 2017, that number has climbed to 213 calls.
Snellings also said that fatal overdoses have also been on the rise, with 26 reported in 2015, compared to 13 in 2010. He also said that while officials try to keep track of the number of fatal overdoses in the community, the number is not accurate because often times an autopsy or toxicology may not be performed on someone who has died. Snellings added that the situation isn’t unique to Chautauqua County with a total of 30 counties in New York State that are likely under-reporting fatal overdoses due to substance use.
Another speaker was Dr. Karen McElrath, a Jamestown native and current Professor of Criminal Justice at Fayetteville State University, North Carolina. Dr. McElrath focused on the stigmas associated with addiction and how they can prevent those who are addicted from seeking help.
Yet another speaker, Leanna Luka Conley from Children and Family Services in Chautauqua County, discussed the impact addiction has on human trafficking, which she said can be more commonly known as sexual exploitation.
Other speakers included Dr. Davina Moss-King, from Positive Direction and Associates in Buffalo and who spoke on the impact addiction has on women, pregnant mothers, and new borns; Andrew O’Brien, former Director of Behavioral Health at WCA; and Rev. Luke Fodor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Jamestown.
A question and answer period followed. The forum was moderated by Dr. Lillian Ney.