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Drug Addicts in Onondaga County get Help Connecting with Treatment Services.

Christian Unkenholz/WAER News

A state grant of $250,000 will help families and individuals navigate addiction problems and help them seek treatment.  

New York State consistently ranks as having one the highest rates of opioid related deaths in the nation. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, in Syracuse Wednesday, announced a program to help ease addictions and assist people to get treatment.  She says the state’s Heroin Task Force discovered patients and families often need help getting connected to treatment and other services. 

“They have no clue.  They have never encountered this, they don’t know where to turn, they’re helpless.  There’s not a support system because they don’t want to talk about it, because there’s a shame associated with it, unfortunately, and they don’t want to seek help. Many times these individuals end up in a hospital.  And what happens? They’re discharged, they’re sent home, they’re brought back again, literally a day or two later.” 

New York State is now funding initiatives that connect treatment experts with those in need. Family Support Navigator Ashley Daley helps families deal with a range of issues that can be intertwined -- addiction, mental health, and poverty. Prevention Network Executive Director Beth Hurny says families feel more comfortable getting assistance in non-clinical settings, outside of treatment centers.  

“But what really matters with this is, we are not a treatment center so families feel much more comfortable approaching someone from our office initially for help and support, as opposed to having to knock on the doors of a treatment center that’s incredibly intimidating.  So we have found that to be a very key piece.”

Meanwhile, Peer Engagement Specialist Maria Sweeney works with patients who end up in emergency rooms because of overdoses or injuries related to addiction.  Sweeney has experience with this first-hand.

“On Monday, I met a young man in the E. R. who had attempted suicide by throwing himself in front of a moving car.  It was his fifth E. R. visit in three days.  I talked to him and shared that he wasn’t alone in his struggle; I listened.  He said he used alcohol to cope with his debilitating anxiety.”  


  Sweeny will continues to check in on a patient’s recovery and try to start them on a treatment program to prevent future injuries or medical emergencies. The state is investing $250 here in Onondaga County for these support programs, which are aimed at all addictions, even though heroin and opioid problems are currently of top concern.

Onondaga County itself has seen a 31 % increase in opioid deaths in 2015, a number that is expected to rise.

The program does not directly address the problem in Syracuse and other areas of a lack of treatment capacity.  That could be beds in an inpatient program or staff and resources to help addicts in outpatient treatment settings.  

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.