WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- Jefferson County is learning just how big the drug problem is after the results of a Jefferson County Public Health study on overdoses revealed 110 deaths in just 6 years, with 60 of those deaths in Watertown alone.
And it's a number that's growing.
"We hope people are empathetic to this problem. We need to make them aware this is happening in our community," Jefferson County Public Health Planner Steve Jennings said.
Those in the heart of Public Square hope it's a wakeup call.
"I walk the back parking lot and the alley ways in the morning times and I find discarded, dirty needles," First Baptist Church Pastor Jeffrey Smith said.
But Smith's reaction to finding those needles isn't anger. He's hopeful one day he can reach out and help someone.
After all, long before he was a pastor, he was in the music business and he was that drug user.
"When you're in that lifestyle you feel hopeless. You feel a despair. You feel like you're in a downward spiral that you can never come out of," Smith said.
In having this data, Public Health is hopeful it reaches those who can make an impact in Watertown.
"We'll be presenting these sorts of maps when we do our advocacy work with our state representatives. We'll also look at other things that influence those neighborhoods and communities like crime and poverty, education level and employment level." Jennings said.
That's music to ears of Pastor Smith. Not only does he want to invite those in need to his church, he wants to restart a support group that ended long ago.
"We're called the whosoever church of Watertown and what that means is, 'whosoever you are, you're welcome here.' They know that if you come here, we're going to help you. We're going to accept you. We're going to love you," Smith said.
Smith says right now about a third of his church members are recovering addicts. He's also hopeful the rest of the community will come out and support them too.
He says he hopes to have that support group up and running in just a few months.
But Smith says he's not going to sit back and wait for addicts to come to his church. He plans to get out, find them and let them know they have a place to go.