Opioid crisis spurs demand of social services in Oneida County

The impact of the opioid epidemic has trickle down that increases challenges for the Oneida County Department of Social Services.

Posted: Dec 6, 2017 6:42 PM
Updated: Feb 26, 2018 4:30 PM

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."

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