U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. told the Wall Street Journal this weekend the increase in deaths from overdoses of heroin and prescription painkillers is an "urgent and growing public health crisis."
Nationally, heroin overdose deaths have increased 45 percent between 2006 and 2010. Holder said Justice Department officials, including Drug Enforcement Agency officials, are working with federal, state and local officials to keep heroin and other illicit drugs off the streets and bring traffickers to justice while expanding education programs for pharmacists, doctors and other health care providers. Holder said first responders are also being asked to carry nalaxone, a drug that can restore breathing to someone suffering from a heroin overdose if it is administered quickly enough.
Drug abuse isn't just an urgent and growing public health crisis nationally. Chautauqua County is seeing addiction locally, as has been detailed since late last year in The Post-Journal.
Those interested in being part of the solution can be part of the county's first steps during two public events today. County Executive Vince Horrigan and Pat Brinkman, county mental hygiene commissioner, are hosting a community drug forum from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Chautauqua Inn and Suites, 215 W. Lake Road, Mayville. Following a panel discussion, there will be topic specific break-out sessions that include family, addiction prevention, treatment options and barriers. Separate from the forum, but taking place during the break-out sessions, will be a training session on the use of naloxone. This training will take place during the break-out sessions.
Later this evening, a family forum will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Carnahan Theater at Jamestown Community College, 525 Falconer St., Jamestown. The family forums will be led by parent representatives from the New York state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and will offer families of those struggling with addition the opportunity to share their stories, identify system barriers, and suggest action steps going forward.
We don't know yet the true depths of our county's drug problem. We are certain, however, our best chance of defining the problem and generating the best strategies to solve the problem lie with strong community attendance at today's public meetings. It's time for all of us to put our heads together.