Battle Against Drug Addiction Moves Forward

Chautauqua County has made progress in battling drug addiction.

Despite a painstakingly slow process for providing adequate treatment for users of heroin and other drugs, officials continue to take the county in a positive direction.

Consider an incoming supportive housing center at WCA Hospital’s Jones Memorial Health Center. Slated for an operational pilot program early in 2016, the facility will feature 25 beds for those enrolled in a 90-day rehabilitation program. Managed by Southern Tier Environments for Living, the center benefits from a $350,000 capital grant secured by state Sen. Cathy Young, R-C-I-Olean.

The Release Under Supervision pilot program – which reduces pre-plea incarceration time and the wait for drug treatment services, has made an immediate impact, according to Rick Huber, Mental Health Association executive director. “People are keeping their appointments, getting the treatment they need and avoiding jail,” he told The Post-Journal.

Meanwhile, the Jamestown City Treatment Court has graduated more than 1,000 local residents in its 15-year history and had as many as 163 participants at one time in 2015. Participants take drug tests, receive treatment and benefit from vocational planning – all while avoiding time behind bars. One of 15 graduates at a recent ceremony told the newspaper she feels ready to become a productive citizen. “People say when they leave this program that they feel like a totally different person, but I don’t,” she said. “I feel like ‘me’ again.”

ALSTAR EMS administered 59 life-saving doses of Narcan, which counteracts the effects of heroin overdoses, from January through July. Recent state legislation has cracked down on insurance companies, requiring them to use evidence-based, clinical criteria concerning addiction treatment coverage if they want to avoid hefty fines. Additionally, county leaders hope to open a licensed outpatient detox program in the community.

These small steps may only scratch the surface of Chautauqua County’s epidemic, but progress takes time. Local leaders have done well recently in the fight against addiction, and they must continue to focus on improving outcomes. Even if the detox program opens, their work won’t be done. As long as local residents struggle with addiction, the fight won’t be over. Adequate treatment will save lives and create productive members of our community. Fighting the battle against drugs is worth the effort.