UTICA, NY-- The impact of the opioid epidemic has trickle down that increases challenges for the Oneida County Department of Social Services.
"The whole opioid addiction, a lot of our cases are serious cases because of drug addiction and a lot of them are opioid-based," said Colleen Fahy-Box, commissioner of the department. "It increases the child welfare reports and referrals, and that's a difficult problem to easily address."
Last year there were 4,404 cases involving child protective services. From the beginning of the year until Nov. 30, there have been 4,266 cases. Fahy-Box said she expects those number to increase before the end of December. Not all of those cases are related to substance abuse, but Fahy-Box said opioid usage plays a major role.
Another problem in the area that's impact by addiction-- the homeless population.
"We had a real increase in the homeless population and that kind of affects every division of DSS because they present a lot of times majority of them presenting are being discharged from either area hospital substance-abuse treatment programs or prisons or jails," she said. "They don't have a place to go after the discharge, so there's a lot of them."
According to the Mohawk Valley Housing and Homeless Coalition, in 2015 there were 140 homeless people, in 2017 that number increased to 162. That's a roughly 16 percent increase.
"It's a difficult population because they have high needs so we really work together to try to create a team approach to working to help people," Fahy-Box said. " So they can get back on their feet and will move forward. I think that's one of the challenges we're working on currently, how do we best integrate the services to help people."