By Emily Adelman ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. (NCC News) — The opioid epidemic that is sweeping the nation is no stranger to Central New York.
Central New York, specifically Onondaga County, had the highest rate of opioid-related deaths for a New York county in 2017, according to a study done by the Onondaga County Health Department. The number of opioid-related deaths has increased by three times since 2014 and has totaled over 275 casualties.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is looking to change this number. In his 2019 budget proposal, he proposed to “fight the opioid epidemic with a $100 million Opioid Fund from manufacturers and distributors and comprehensive anti-opioid abuse effort.”
“I worry about who is allocating that money — who is appropriating it — because that is a big concern as to where the money is actually going,” Michaline Younis said. Younis is the President of H.E.A.L, the Heroin Epidemic Action League. Its mission is to create community-wide education, awareness, support and advocacy for not only people struggling with an addiction to heroin, but other opioid drugs as well.
Angela and Mark Stevens are the founders of the Baldwinsville Addiction Awareness Group. They know firsthand what it is like to have a family member affected by an opioid addiction.
“We felt lost when we first found out our loved one was struggling with an addiction,” Mark said. “We knew we needed to find help.”
“While getting a person into detox and inpatient may work for them, you have to think about the family members. The family members need help too,” Angela Stevens added.
Both the Stevens’ as well as Younis stressed that while this budget proposal will not hurt the opioid epidemic, there needs to be more than just a stewardship payment placed on manufacturers and distributors of those drugs.
“People will be able to see that you are putting $100 million dollars into treatment and they will be happy with that, but those are the uneducated ones,” Younis said.
“Treatment is one of the ways to help people out, but is not the only way,” Younis added. “Putting money in research and educating people about the stigma of addiction is a good start,” she said
“Education is key. Also allowing families to be able to take the first step in realizing that they can go somewhere and not be judged for their family member’s addiction, and realizing that they need love and affection,” Angela added.