Lack of Funds, Doesn’t Mean Lack of Services

The drug that has been dominating the news recently, whether at national, state, or local level, is heroin. Heroin use became more popular as prescription opioids were more difficult to obtain from prescribers, which drove the street value of prescription opioids higher than heroin.  People abusing or who became addicted to prescription opioids turned to heroin as it became cheaper and more readily accessible. In September, Governor Cuomo announced that $25.2 million in federal funding will be used to expand initiatives in New York State to confront the opioid epidemic. Sixteen counties will share up to $16 million to increase access to treatment. Allegany County was not one of the counties chosen; Erie and Niagara Counties were chosen in Western New York.  The counties were designated as high needs, based on the number of opioid overdose deaths, hospitalizations involving opioids, and residents leaving the county to access addiction treatment services. This is unfortunate as more access to treatment is always a valuable resource to the community.

Comparison of the most recent Allegany County data shows that, in 2016, there were two deaths and ten emergency room visits due to opioid overdoses1, and zero deaths and twenty-two emergency room visits due to heroin overdoses.2 On the other hand, there were sixty-five injuries or deaths attributed to alcohol related motor vehicle accidents.3 This confirms that there are different substances being used at a dangerous level.

Even though Allegany County was not chosen as one of the sixteen counties to receive more funding for treatment services, there is still much that can be done in the way of prevention. Prevention initiatives focus on stopping people from becoming addicted to drugs. The first substance abuse prevention lessons that our young people receive occur in their schools from the Allegany Council’s Credentialed Prevention Professionals. They cover many topics including: healthy decisions, refusal skills, and education on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Topics of high importance are educating the young people of Allegany County on addiction and the progression of addiction.

ACASA

One of the most successful initiatives in Allegany County dealing with prescription opioid abuse is the seven pill drop boxes throughout the county. These help keep prescription opioids off our streets and out of the hands of our young people. In 2016, the pill drop boxes and two pill drop events collected in excess of 1,112 pounds of medications. During that collection 24,061 pills were controlled substances. On October 28, 2017 between 10am to 2pm, the pill drop event will be held at Fillmore Pharmacy and Friendship Ambulance Squad.

Pill Drop Ad Fillmore-Friendship.2017

T21.LogoIn Allegany County, two of the first addictive drugs that young people are exposed to are alcohol and tobacco. Both of these products are legal, but also can be affected by policies that can be passed locally. The first policy that has been proposed for consideration is Tobacco Twenty-One, which has been supported by the Allegany County Board of Health. The purpose of this local policy is to curtail the easy access that teenagers currently have to eighteen-year-old peers in high school. This was first done in Needham, Massachusetts where, after five years, the teen smoking rate dropped by fifty percent. Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and eight other counties, including New York City, have already raised the minimum purchasing age for tobacco to twenty-one.

 

Social-Host

The second policy that has been discussed is a social host law, which exists in the village of Alfred. The purpose of a social host law is to eliminate the access that young people find in adults who host drinking parties for them. The previous two policies discussed help to change social norms of a community.

 

 

The other options could be licensing and zoning laws. Both of these affect the amount of businesses that can sell alcohol or tobacco in the county and where they are located. By limiting the amount of businesses that sell these products reduces availability. This will also limit the amount of marketing for these products which encourages young people to use them. A zoning law limits the location of these businesses. For example, tobacco retailers near schools have been found to have three times more advertising than other stores. All of the policy options discussed are evidence based, which means they are proven to be effective. Preventing our young people from becoming addicted to alcohol and tobacco means deterring them from starting down the road of addiction, which could lead to opioid abuse or heroin use in the future. For more information please visit www.ppaccentral.org.

Remember Prevention Works!

1 This indicator includes all pharmaceutically and illicitly produced opioids such as fentanyl.

2 New York State – County Opioid Quarterly Report For Counties Outside of New York City; January 2017.

3 Tobacco, Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse Indicators – Allegany County 2012-2014.

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