The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

May 5, 2014

In Our Opinion: Treatment is vital step in heroin fight

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The Daily Star

---- — Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond described the local heroin epidemic as “a problem that is about to overrun us.” And at a local meeting of the state Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said that a “multi-pronged strategy” is needed to address the problem. 

The April 28 meeting touched on one of the serious gaps in our region’s ability to fight heroin: the availability of treatment. 

At the meeting, Schoharie District Attorney Jim Sackett said what is really needed are more resources for treatment, including long-term residential care.

Dr. Joseph Sellers of Bassett Healthcare Network Cobleskill encouraged legislative action to spread the use of Naloxone, a drug to counteract the effects of an overdose. He also said insurance companies are denying funding for essential treatment.

We’re not suggesting that it would be easy for local health care facilities, or government agencies, to offer more drug treatment programs — particularly of the sort Sackett described, which can be extremely costly to operate. 

But we also firmly believe that until local addicts can get local treatment, this problem isn’t going to be lessened. 

Everyone at the local, state and federal levels seems to agree that this is what’s needed. So it’s time to make it happen. 

And in the meantime, as many present at the April meeting pointed out, more can be done in the way of education and prevention. 

We know that prescription drug abuse is directly linked to heroin use in our region. At the meeting, Deb France of Oneonta described how her son became addicted to prescription painkillers after having his wisdom teeth removed. He began purchasing the pills from classmates, then turned to heroin, and eventually committed suicide. She said she had trouble finding, and paying for, treatment for her son. Perhaps if that had not been the case, he might still be alive. 

As deadly and dangerous as prescription drug abuse can be, there may still be those who perceive these pills as “safe” because they are prescribed by a doctor, rather than being a street drug. It is vital, especially for young people, to send a clear message that any drug can be harmful when it is not taken as directed, and that the risks of becoming addicted are just as real with pills as they are with heroin. 

We must continue to encourage people to safely dispose of unused medication through drop-off points or collection drives. State police and other agencies conduct these at various times throughout the year, and we urge anyone with unused medication to take advantage of these free, no-questions-asked opportunities. 

We fervently hope that additional resources can be made available to our area to combat this serious and growing problem. The will is there; we just need the means to follow through.