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Action plan formed to tackle local heroin epidemic

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Heroin and opioid abuse has permeated all types of local communities and all walks of life.

"It's killing people. People are losing their lives and it's coming to a point where they can't really live a life productively as a result of the abuse," said Sen. Joe Griffo. "It's too accessible, it's too cheap and it's a scourge on our society."

The growing problem can be exemplified in the number of inmates at the Oneida County Jail that are admitted heroin users.

"We saw specifically from comparing 2012 and 2013 we saw a 39 percent spike in the amount of heroin users coming into our facility, which is a huge number. That's very alarming for us," said Sheriff Rob Maciol of the Oneida County Sheriff's Office.

After gathering information from 18 forums hosted by the New York Senate Join Task Force on Heroin and Opioid addiction, local lawmakers now have an idea on how to curb the heroin epidemic and they're teaming up with law enforcement to form a plan of action.

One piece is the Oneida County Sheriff's Office is applying for a $4,500 grant to equip 39 deputies with Narcan kits and training. The money will come from a $5 million Community Overdose Program from the State Attorney General's Office- a pool that will provide funding to other local agencies as well.

Local ambulance companies have been carrying Narcan for years to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, but it gives them peace of mind knowing law enforcement may soon be carrying it as well.

"Due to them being first on the scene for these types of emergencies, it's beneficial because if the patient is unresponsive they can administer it before we arrive on scene," said Daniel Gigliotti, an EMT for Kunkel Ambulance Service.

The State Senate is also proposing 25 bills that will increase community resources, stiffen penalties for those who sell and transport drugs, and knock down the highest barrier when it comes to receiving treatment.

"There are insurance issues that we're trying to overcome right now so people who need the treatment have the ability to get the treatment regardless of status," said Sen. Griffo.

Sen. Griffo hopes all the legislative proposals will be taken up for a vote before the legislature breaks for the summer.

You can find the full task force report and proposed legislation here:

http://www.nysenate.gov/files/Joint_Senate_Heroin_Addiction_Task_Force_Final_Report_5-27-14.pdf

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