Onondaga County Sheriff Proposes Programs to Fight Heroin Addiction

Jan 19, 2016

Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway
Credit Chris Bolt / WAER News

  Onondaga County’s Sheriff has a few ideas about how to reduce what he’s calling an epidemic in heroin abuse.  He’s trying to help addicts in the community as well as those behind bars. 

HEROIN AND OPIATE ADDICTION WILL BE THE TOPIC OF A COMMUNITY FORUM WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20TH 5:00 TO 7:30 P.M. AT THE CIVIC CENTER'S CARRIER THEATER 421 MONTGOMERY ST., SYRACUSE 

The number of people abusing and trafficking in heroin and other opiate painkillers is shocking Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway.

“We are in the midst of an epidemic, the likes of which I have not seen in almost 40 years of police experience."

He says the impacts in addiction, costs and death - are much farther-reaching than most people think.

"You mention the word heroin, and there's this stigma that heroin is a lower class type of drug that someone would use.  I'm here telling you that isn't the case anymore."

Conway is proposing two programs he believes can help end addiction for some people.  One would give certain prison inmates access to a drug called Vivitrol that deadens any high people get from heroin or opiate painkillers…and lasts about four weeks when they can get a follow-up.  Another initiative would target people in the community…through what he calls an Angel program.

“The angel could be a person recovering from addiction, or someone who is familiar with addiction, treatment, and recovery.  Law enforcement could actually offer to provide transportation for the addict to the treatment facility.”

In each case, Conway emphasizes the addict has to want the treatment – and counseling has to accompany the medication.  Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta is helping implement the programs for this complex drug problem.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta
Credit Chris Bolt / WAER News

“In the past, even just 10 years ago, heroin had a separate route, and the opiates had a separate route. They're starting to converge now.  People are interchanging those, they are taking opiate prescription...whether they are buying it or stealing it, and they're using it interchangeably with the heroin.”

Details about who administers the Vivitrol drug, what agencies do counseling and even availability of treatment have yet to be worked out.  Both Gupta and Conway will be at a community forum on the Heroin problem and solutions Wednesday night at the Civic Center starting at 5:00.