Upstate University Symposium Explores New Ways to Help CNYers Struggling with Opioid Addiction

Mar 30, 2017

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul has been personally affected by opioids because she saw her nephew struggle with addiction.
Credit John Smith / WAER News

SUNY Upstate is bringing together medical experts to figure out ways to help those Central New Yorkers suffering from opioid and heroin addiction.  A two-day symposium in Syracuse is delving into the multitude of issues and ways to prevent it altogether.  Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul says kids are often brought into the world with the problem, even locally. 

“What troubles me about this Onondaga area, Syracuse and Central New York, is that you have the third highest rate of babies being born now addicted to these substances.”

The drug addiction problem also hit home for Hochul.  She says her older nephew died about 15 months ago.

“We thought he was in recovery. We thought he was doing okay," Hochul said. "He was actually in a graduate program at the University of Buffalo. We thought he had turned the corner. But his story is so like so many other stories where you think you are getting to a point, and addiction pulls you back.”

She told an audience at the CNY Biotech Accelerator Thursday that she’s confident they can find solutions.  A proposal that Hochul is hoping that makes it into this year’s state budget would incorporate addiction rehabilitation services at “recovery high schools.”

“What we find is a lot of young people start being addicted and then they drop out of high school," Hochul said. "We need a place where they can continue to get support services while they’re continuing their education.”

SUNY Upstate’s Director of Addiction Medicine Brian Johnson says a 24/7 treatment center would help patients.
Credit John Smith / WAER News

The mentally ill and the poorest members of society are among those often stricken with addiction.  Upstate’s Director of Addiction Medicine Brian Johnson says a 24/7 intervention center is something he’d like to see built.

“You come in. We stabilize you. We have a way to treat a large number of patients already," Johnson said. "But if people want all of these other services like opioid maintenance, we can refer them over there. We would take intakes from all of the local hospital emergency departments.”

Johnson also wants doctors to stop prescribing opioids for pain after operations.  He says six other classes of drugs are a better option.  

Community members gather at CNY Biotech Accelerator for a symposium held by Upstate Medical University.
Credit John Smith / WAER News