"So lets hope that this is the dawn of a new day," said NYS Attorney General, Letitia James, as she handed Oneida County Executive, Anthony Picente, Jr., and Utica Mayor, Robert Palmieri, a $4.2 check to fight the Opioid epidemic in the county....from the people she says caused it.
"So, we sued big pharma, and now they're paying for the tragedy they have caused, for all those lives that have been shattered and that have been taken because of the opioid epidemic," said James.
One area the money is sorely needed-Utica's Oneida Square, where the homeless and addicted can be seen during the day, swaying against buildings, some, in a drug-induced fog, while others sleep on the grass, using all their worldly possessions as a pillow.
"That will be one of our releases that we come out with, with the county executive, there will be two drop in centers that will be operable during the day time," said Mayor Palmieri, regarding the heartbreaking display on Oneida Square.
"We can look at specific housing, we can look at more prevention and education and rehabilitation programs with it," said County Executive Picente.
"And the funds will go primarily to addiction prevention, to education and to treatment and to outreach. New Yorkers will see increased distribution and training in life saving drugs to reverse opioid overdoses, you'll see increased opioid prevention and education in your local schools," offered James.
On hand for the announcement, an family peer advoate with the Center for Family Life and Recovery, who remembers a much different time.
"I struggled with heroin addiction for 25 years, I'm an ex convict, iIm an ex gang banger," said Eric Rodriguez. His message? "Addicts are humans and we're capable of change."
Attorney General James says the money should start flowing into counties toward the end of the year.