Central New York, Health

Onondaga County Sees Drop in Opioid Overdose Deaths in 2017

ACR Health in Syracuse offers Narcan, an overdose rescue drug, as part of their Syringe Exchange Program (c) 2018 Sean Scott

Click the play button to hear why Onondaga County is finally seeing improvement in the opioid crisis after years of rising death totals.

Audio transcript: Scott Improving Opioid Crisis

By Sean Scott SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Opioid overdose deaths fell 34 percent in Central New York during the first nine months of 2017 after years of increasing deaths.

Local health organizations contribute the decline in overdose deaths to both an increase in education and access to Narcan, an overdose rescue drug. Narcan is widely accessible through overdose prevention training programs that are funded by New York State, such as ACR Health, and is available as a safe-to-use nasal spray. Kevin Donovan, Overdose Prevention Coordinator at ACR Health, said the primary goal of these programs are to get clients into treatment for drug addiction.

“We’re going to try to keep as many people alive as possible, and then hopefully get as many people as possible into treatment for this disease,” Donovan said.

ACR Health’s Syringe Exchange Program may also be responsible for the drop in overdose deaths. The program provides clean needles along with other basic health care necessities to help cut down the transmission of communicable diseases, such as Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. Belinda Felder, Coordinator of the Syringe Exchange Program at ACR Health, said it is important to provide clean syringes while also making clients feel safe.

“This is like a safe haven spot, so if you can come get clean syringes without being judged or criminalized, that’s always a good thing,” Felder said.

Onondaga County Health Department Director of the Division of Community Health Rebecca Shultz said the stigma surrounding addiction needs to end to keep overdose deaths trending downward.

“We continue to raise awareness in the community about the opioid epidemic. We continue to also try to destigmatize addiction because we want people to feel like they can come forward and ask for help and then receive that help,” Shultz said

Final data for opioid overdose deaths in 2017 is expected in early April.