Fewer than 75 people turned out for two forums on drug-related issues in Yates County last week, raising concerns that the public isn't concerned about the problems.
The Yates Substance Abuse Coalition (YSAC) invited community partners to speak at two events to share updates and news on what has been going on in the Yates County community in regards to drug use, drug-related crimes, addiction services, education, and prevention. But what may be the more telling story is how few seem interested now, despite the growing problem.
The Tuesday, Oct. 24 forum held at Penn Yan Middle School attracted fewer than 60 members of the public, and the Thursday, Oct. 26 forum at Dundee Junior-Senior High School only gathered 14, who barely outnumbered the organizers. This is in dire contrast to the forums three years ago that drew over 300 in Penn Yan and about 100 in Dundee. After both events last week, Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike reflected on the low public attendance, wondering if “people are becoming numb to it all.”
In his presentation, Spike provided the latest figures on drug crimes and overdoses, including the fact that opioid overdoses are now the number one cause of death for people under age 50 in the U.S. That includes 20 deaths in Yates County in the last four years, with four so far in 2017. Spike also spoke of the rising threat of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid many times stronger than heroin; and methamphetamine manufacturing, including a bust in Dundee that week.
Spike also spoke of the steady increase in drug possession arrests, nearly tripling over the last five years, and the fact that the majority of DWI arrests are now compounded by marijuana possession.
Lynn Seaward, Director of Housing and Community Based Services at Finger Lakes Area Counseling and Recovery Agency (FLACRA), detailed new expanded services and funding for treatment programs. She also introduced Keynote speaker José Delfi, Peer Advocate with FLACRA, who told of his own progress from drug user to become a recovering, sober, and dedicated father.
Other speakers included Prevention Educator Idelle Dillon from the Finger Lakes Council on Alcoholism, who spoke on the Too Good for Drugs classes at Penn Yan and Dundee Elementary Schools; Public Health Director Deb Minor ,who reported on the New York State Opioid Overdose Prevention Program and its success in Narcan trainings and the number of lives saved; and Yates County District Attorney Valerie Gardner, who reported on the Good Samaritan Law and recent cases in the area.