The Monroe County medical examiner has released its annual report on the number of deaths attributed to the use of heroin, opioids, fentanyl or other related drugs.
From 11 deaths in 2011, the medical examiner says the numbers have skyrocketed more than 1,700 percent.
Between 2011 and 2016, Monroe County recorded 78 overdose deaths from heroin, opioids, fentanyl and other drugs. On Tuesday, the medical examiner says the count more than doubled in 2016, to 169 lives lost to the local drug epidemic. The annual report shows 206 overdose deaths in all the counties covered by the ME's office last year.
"Imagine if that were Lyme disease or West Nile Virus or even fatal car crashes,” said Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode. “If we were having three or four fatalities a week, there would be public campaigns, [and] weekly press conferences."
But the Town of Gates is taking a proactive approach. Civic leaders teamed up with Recovery Now NY, a nonprofit addiction recovery group. Every Thursday night, the Gates Recreation Center opens its doors to drug addicts and their families to provide resources and support. In some cases, the window of time for help can be short.
"We use as many resources as we can at that time to get them into a bed,” said David Attridge, of Recovery Now NY.
But in the long run, they see the real solution in reigning in the over prescription of pain meds, more funding for addiction recovery services, education of youth and what Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini calls "Street Warriors." These are former addicts or family of them who have experienced addiction first hand.
This Friday, Recovery Now NY intends to use these newfound numbers to send a statement to Monroe County. They plan on lining a pair of shoes for every overdose death on the steps of the County Office building. They hope their message prompts the county to act on the staggering numbers. It’s designed to be a visual message for an issue that so often is out of sight, and out of mind.
Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza released a statement on the numbers, saying in part, "The information has helped to guide our proactive approach to dealing with the crisis, from offering public Narcan training to working collaboratively through the Monroe County Opioid Task Force. This will continue to be a top public health and safety priority."