CELORON – Healthcare officials from throughout Chautauqua County were in Celoron on Tuesday to participate in a day-long forum addressing the issue of substance abuse and to also hear from a guest speaker who has first hand experience with the impact drug addiction can have on a person’s life.
Kennebunk, Maine Police Chief Robert MacKenzie served as the guest speaker at the Combat Addiction CHQ event at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel.
Cheif MacKenzie shared details about his career in public safety and law enforcement, including the numerous projects he’s been involved with to help reduce substance abuse in his home community. MacKenzie also shared details about his personal life, saying he’s had both a daughter and a step-son who’ve been affected by substance abuse, including having been arrested as well as receiving rehabilitation treatment.
“What that did is it led me to bring hope to recovery, and there is hope in recovery. I’m pretty sure that all of you here know that and that’s why you do what you do, by working with a lot of people in long-term recovery who are doing some really good things,” MacKenzie said.
The chief said that his own personal experiences have only driven him to work harder at addressing substance abuse by working to initiate new education programs that not only work to reduce and prevent addiction, but to also provide the help that is needed for those seeking recovery. That includes working with several community organizations to raise money for naloxone use and recovery coach training. He has also worked to breakdown the stigma of addiction by getting local service organizations like rotary involved in education people about dependence.
MacKenzie also said that even though there now appears to be ground being gained in the Opioid epidemic, health officials and law enforcement need to remain vigilant in the broader fight against substance abuse.
“Every time I do a talk, no matter where I am, I’m bringing up substance use disorder. We have to do that now more than anytime because what’s going to happen – and I think you’re seeing here with an increase in meth and your opioid use is starting to decline – some time, at some point probably soon, the opioid epidemic is going to be a thing of the past but we can’t lose sight of substance use disorder. We have to start making those connections now to our communities so they get it, because education is key,” MacKenzie said.
MacKenzie’s appearance was made possible by the Chautauqua Substance Abuse Response Partnerships (CSARP) group, which is a multi-agency partnership comprised of representatives from the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene, Chautauqua County Department of Health, local hospitals and healthcare centers, Mental Health Association, Evergreen Health, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County, The Resource Center, and Prevention Works (formerly CASAC).
CSARP is a multi-agency partnership of prevention, treatment and recovery providers. CSARP was established under a Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) grant awarded to the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene. The RCORP implementation grant is a $1 million multi-year initiative supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to address barriers to access in rural communities related to substance use disorder, including opioid use disorder.
Earlier this month, health officials reported overdose deaths declined in Chautauqua County in 2018 for the first time since 2012, with at least a 30 percent reduction in fatal overdoses occurring from 2017 to 2018.
According to the latest statistics, there is an estimated 8,500 to 9,000 county residents with a substance use disorder, with about 15% of them having an opioid use disorder. Health officials said that 2,800 are receiving treatment.
Residents benefit from the availability of a wide range of treatment services. Outpatient clinics and inpatient rehabs operate in both the northern and southern portions of the county. Utilization of treatment has been increasing. In 2018, almost 30 percent more county residents received treatment for opioid use than in 2016. Medication assisted treatment is available from providers across the county. A new, long-term residential program has recently opened at UPMC Chautauqua. Peer support services through the Mental Health Association (MHA) in Chautauqua are now available in both Jamestown and Dunkirk.