Video of Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction hearing

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
A panel of 22 addressed members of the Senate Task Force when they visited Penn Yan Feb. 23.

 A video of the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction forum that he sponsored in Yates County on Tuesday, Feb. 23, is now available for viewing on Sen. Tom O’Mara’s website, www.omara.nysenate.gov.

Tuesday night’s forum on the regional heroin crisis was held in the Penn Yan Middle School Auditorium. O’Mara, a member of the Senate task force, was joined in Yates County by the task force co-chairs, Senators George Amedore (R,C,I-Rotterdam), Terrence Murphy (R,C,I-Yorktown) and Robert Ortt (R-North Tonowanda), as well as task force member Senator Rich Funke (R,C,I-Perinton) and area State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning).

The lawmakers heard testimony from regional law enforcement officers, first responders and district attorneys, drug addiction counselors and treatment providers, recovering addicts and family members, social services and health professionals, educators and other experts about the range of complex challenges posed by heroin including addiction prevention and treatment options, drug-related crimes, and other community and public health and safety impacts.

The Feb. 23 panelists were: Yates County Sheriff Ronald Spike; Schuyler County Sheriff William Yessman, Jr.; Investigator Thomas Dunham of the Village of Penn Yan Police Department; Yates County District Attorney Valerie Gardner; Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph Fazzary; Chemung County Assistant District Attorney Jason Cook; Yates County Court Judge W. Patrick Falvey; Annmarie Flanagan of the Yates County Substance Abuse Coalition; Danielle Tilden of the Finger Lakes Addictions Counseling & Referral Agency; Mike Ballard of the Council on Alcoholism and Addictions of the Finger Lakes; Yates County Public Health Director Deb Minor; Yates County Public Health Director of Community Services George Roets; Marcia Kasprzyk of the Schuyler County Health Department; Penn Yan Central School District Superintendent Howard Dennis; Dundee Central School District Superintendent Kelly Houck; Watkins Glen Central School District Superintendent Tom Phillips; and Alexis Pleus, founder of the national, non-profit advocacy organization Truth Pharm.

Several area recovering addicts and family members also shared their stories.

“It’s important to hear directly from those on the front lines locally who can help us target the necessary responses, and I’m grateful for their participation. The local input we're receiving will help our task force build on and strengthen the state-local partnership that's going to be critical to putting in place the most up to date and effective combination of law enforcement, awareness and education, and treatment and prevention," said O'Mara.

The bipartisan Senate task force was created in 2014 at a time when local police departments and addiction centers, including many across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, were pointing to the alarming rise in the availability and use of heroin.

To watch the task force forum in Penn Yan and to read more, go to omara.nysenate.gov.