Borrello Proposes Task Force To Combat Opioid Epidemic

Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello speaks Wednesday during a meeting of the Community Justice Council. Borrello said he is following through on a proposal to create a countywide anti-drug program. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello announced a new program to combat opioid use in the region at a Community Justice Council meeting Wednesday.

The anti-drug program, the Countywide Alliance for Enforcement and Rehabilitation (CAER), is a task force the county executive proposed during his campaign. He said he is following up on his promise to counter the opioid problem, which he called an “epidemic.”

“What this task force is going to do is we’re going to take different segments to address this opioid epidemic and try to bring people together to streamline and better use our resources,” Borrello said.

The county executive said the group will bring together education and prevention, law enforcement, health care, rehabilitation and peer counseling groups. Borrello said he has just begun meeting with each facet of the new taskforce and will continue to sit down with each group.

In total, the new program will feature three smaller groups each attacking the issue from a different angle.

“I, certainly as county executive, do not have all the answers, but I do know one thing: we do need to have better communication because we have very limited resources to work with,” he said.

Borrello said a major issue with how current operations work is that individuals are serving on multiple committees and have to attend various meetings. He emphasized streamlining operations to become more effective in order to “open the lines of communication as possible.”

He noted that with limited resources the county needs to maximize its efforts as much as possible.

“I’m looking to take a leadership role in facilitating more cooperation, better communication and ultimately getting our arms around this issue,” he said.

Borrello noted that from an economic standpoint the largest problem in the county falls back to drug use and the opioid epidemic. He said the No. 1 issue is a sustaining a qualified workforce, and cited failing drug tests and absenteeism from work as the main cause.

He said in order to have economic development, prosperity and addressing blight and poverty, the county needs to address the drug epidemic.

“It is the foundation for all the other issues that we have, all the other negatives that plague us,” he said.

He said treatment numbers in the nation, the state and the county are “poor” and admitted the once a person is addicted it can be very difficult in treated that individual.

Borrello said the focus needs to be on education and prevention.

In other news, the Chautauqua County Community Justice Council heard reports and updates from each sub-committee of the council. Chautauqua County Public Defender Ned Barone discussed implemented bail reform around the county to reduce the amount of people who are sitting in a jail. He also said the Public Defender’s Office is making strides in “centralized arraignment.” This is where a defendant has a public defender present as soon as the initial arraignment.

Sheriff Joe Gerace discussed ways the county can improve the way sentences are handed out. One example was to implement a program similar to one in Albany that gives criminals of specific crimes the option to either engage in the arrest process or being handed over to a case management program that offers trauma-related services.

The council will meet again on April 18.