What we’re doing to fight addiction in Whitney Point

I wanted to provide our residents with an update on our community’s efforts to fight addiction and the heroin epidemic that we have seen affecting us in the Southern Tier. While there hasn’t been as much media coverage of the issue as of late, the issue has not gone away. We continue to see an alarming number of lives ravaged by addiction as the death toll rises and drug related crimes increase. Just a few weeks ago a local family stopped me on the street and shared a story about a drug related incident that they experienced in our own perpetual back yard that blew my mind.

This isn’t something that will just take care of itself. As a society, we need to methodically and strategically take steps to prevent future addiction, get current addicts help and reduce harm in every way possible. The ultimate goal is to save lives. Both the loss of life and the destruction of lives that we still have.

As a rural community, one of our challenges is always access. Not only is there a lack of resources to tackle this issue across the region in general, but we don’t live in a city where everything is right down the road. In light of this, we’ve been taking steps right here in our home town to fight this problem. Here is a short summary of some of the steps that we’ve taken or are currently working on to combat this plaguing issue.

1. Our first responders are carrying Narcan

The men and women that make up the all-volunteer Whitney Point Fire Department are amazing people. They put in an endless amount of effort day in and day responding to emergencies like fires, car accidents and medical calls in addition to numerous other reponsibilities. We have several members of our department who are trained to actively respond to every day health emergencies such as heart attacks, seizures and the like. This year we added another resource to our tool box; Narcan.

Our medical responders now carry Narcan and have been trained in its use. Why? Because it’s absolutely vital that we have people here in Northern Broome who are equipped to save a life in the event of an overdose. In order for the person overdosing to have a chance to beat their addiction and get their life on track, we first need to save their life. We’re proud to say that the Whitney Point Fire Department is prepared to do that. While in an ideal world we could prevent addiction from ever occurring and the need for Narcan altogether, we don’t live in an ideal world. The reality is that we need it and our we’re ready to save lives any way that we can.

2. We have our own support group (Narcotics Anonymous)

There are a lot of people out there who know they need help. They want it but they don’t know where to go or where to start. Or maybe there are road blocks in between their desire to get clean and the ability to actually do so. We have removed one of those road blocks by hosting a Narcotics Anonymous group right here in Whitney Point. If you’re struggling with addiction here in Northern Broome and you need somewhere to go, people to talk to, and ideas for how you can get clean, this is the place to go. Meetings are held every Friday at the Methodist Church on Collins Street at 7:00pm.

3. We are building community awareness

We have partnered with the Whitney Point School District and a number of organizations to hold a pair of addiction awareness events in Whitney Point over the last year or so. The objective of these events has been to educate the public on the realities and dangers of addiction, provide an understanding to residents as to how to get loved ones help and to offer resources and avenues for getting addicts into recovery. But we’re just getting started. We are seeking funding and a partnership with Truth Pharm to take our awareness efforts to the next level. If we are awarded the grant funds that we are seeking, Truth Pharm will hold a series of events and trainings to further educate the public to ultimately prevent future addiction, reduce the stigma associated with addiction and mental illness and clearly identify more paths to support and recovery for families struggling with addiction here in Northern Broome.

These are just a few of the things that we have done locally so far. Additional efforts are being carried out by a number of parties such as the Broome County District Attorney’s Office, Broome County Sheriff’s Department and more. None of our local efforts here in Whitney Point have cost our tax payers a dime. We’re simply working as hard as we can to bring every resource that we can find to the table. We’re working to create awareness, stop addiction before it starts and get those who want help the support that they need.

We have to do whatever we can to get our friends, family and neighbors help and clean up our communities. If we don’t take ownership, who will? There are no silver bullets in this battle. This is a war. We need to develop and employ long term strategies and ensure that the efforts continue. This isn’t something that’s going to be solved overnight and it isn’t a “one and done.” Making progress against addiction and the related issues that it causes is going to require steady hands and a truly collaborative effort. We’re all in and we’ve got a long way to go, but I thought that everyone would like an update on what we’ve been able to pull together so far. We have more to consider and more in the works. Now, its time to get back to work.