Dear Commissioner Sanchez,
Dear Commissioner Sanchez,
We are tired of waiting for the county to take action. It is long past time for them to be responsible in their roles to protect the public. See our letter to County Executive Jason Garnar below. Be sure to click the news links to see what he thought should be done PRIOR to being elected.
We have been calling on the county to track and report overdose deaths and reversals since August of 2015. Here we are, nearly two years later, still waiting.
Call County Executive Garnar today and ask him when he’ll start doing all the things he was demanding of the last administration.
June 25, 2017
Broome County Executive
60 Hawley Street
Binghamton, NY 13901
Dear County Executive Jason Garnar,
On June 24, 2017 the Village of Johnson City Police issued a warning about a surge in heroin overdoses, including three fatalities. We thanked them for their proactive approach in alerting their community. Due to their proactive approach, Truth Pharm and STAP worked together to immediately respond by advertising, promoting and handing out life-saving Naloxone kits during a three-hour time-slot on Sunday. Twenty-four people were trained and obtained kits.
This is what the response to a public health emergency looks like.
Also, due to their proactive approach, the news media published stories about the overdoses and the handing out of Naloxone kits, which caused hundreds of people in Broome County to engage in conversations about the opioid epidemic. In addition, hundreds of people were educated about: the dangers of using alone; the need to call 911; a particularly strong or ‘bad’ batch of heroin that was circulating; harm reduction practices they could use to reduce overdoses; and the lifesaving medication Naloxone. Conversations that our community desperately needs. In addition, two people reached out to Truth Pharm and will be placed into inpatient treatment tomorrow.
On February 23, 2017 you attended our in-depth presentation to local elected officials outlining the dire need for both care and harm reduction approaches in Broome County. We also made it clear that tracking of overdose data – both deaths and successful revivals – is the responsibility of our county government and needs to be done accurately, consistently and actively reported to the public.
We have seen zero progress on this front. We have been making requests for this information since August of 2015, we are approaching two years since then, over one hundred deaths and thousands of overdoses with no change to the system.
Prior to being elected as County Executive, you agreed that the community should be notified. We have communications from you to us directly stating so and ridiculing the prior administration for not being responsible in doing so. And you made your opinion public to the media. On August 12, 2016, WICZ started a report about overdoses with this line: “Broome County Executive Candidate Jason Garnar called for a public health warning on heroin overdoses Thursday night.” And later in the article included this as well, “Jason Garnar says it is a health risk when the public isn’t notified.” Garnar Calls for Public Health Warning Garnar Wants Better Accounting by the County
On August 11, 2016, in an article published by the Press & Sun Bulletin: “First and foremost, Broome County needs to declare a public health emergency,” said Garnar, the Democrat challenging Preston in the November election. But “what I’m more concerned about is it seems our county executive is not saying anything about this. We should be doing everything possible to get the word out there that something is out there that is killing people left and right.” The website for that article includes a video of you stating how important it is for the County Executive to release CURRENT information to the public in order to save lives. Garnar calls on Broome to Declare Opioid Emergency
It is nearly one year since you made those strong statements and you’ve been in office for six months. But, where is your action? Why aren’t you releasing notices to the public? You are now the one responsible to ensure the public is notified.
As we have in the past, we could provide multiple examples of other counties in New York State who are actively tracking and releasing overdose data, but we trust you can google and immediately find plenty of results just as easily as we can.
We also know this data already exists for the county. We recently learned that the county is planning to participate in a program to release all overdose data (deaths and reversals) to a mapping program run by the DEA. That mapped data will not be accessible by the public, but is utilized in drug investigations. We are beyond sickened to learn that the county is choosing to participate in an enforcement and further criminalization program as their priority over participating in issuing public health warnings and participating in harm reduction practices with data you ALREADY HAVE.
Your goal must be to save lives.
We are again requesting that the County Health Department immediately begin to take responsibility for counting the deaths of our loved ones due to substance use related causes and issuing that information to the public. This responsibility does not belong to the District Attorney, this is a health issue and belongs to our county health department.
We also want to remind you that funding from the state and federal government depends on accurately reporting both overdose and death data to state officials. We are being bypassed for funding, new programs and attention because our issues are not accurately reported.
Though it seems much of what was written in our letter of February 23, 2017, including working together cooperatively, has been ignored, we’ll attach the letter as a reminder of what we called for four months ago, please be sure to review request #3 which we’ll include below. The optimism we expressed in our letter is waning, but we as an organization continue to do the work necessary to save lives. You, as the County Executive, declared this opioid crisis a Public Health Emergency. With that declaration comes serious responsibility on your part.
Founder and Executive Director
cc: Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, NYS Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker
It is nearly impossible to wrap our heads around first the ignorance of this man, but second the cold, calculated, cruel nature. Please have a watch of this video: http://www.journal-news.com/news/middletown-council-member-can-stop-responding-overdoses/PUUgYB815ROOGRxIP28bTP/
Our response is below. We urge you all to send your own response. Here are the email addresses for Middletown’s government officials: http://www.cityofmiddletown.org/council/members.aspx
We are a nonprofit organization that is fervently committed to reducing the stigma associated with substance use disorders, advocating for policy change on behalf of those that suffer with them, and raising awareness in hopes that educating our communities will help to reduce substance related death by means of rapid response, implementation of health and human service protocols, and, ideally and ultimately, recovery.
In short, our goal is to save lives so,needless to say, we were more than appalled by your recent proposition to refuse medical treatment to overdose patients. It pains and infuriates us to see how easily you have turned human lives into dollar signs and an impact on your budget.
We understand that you have decided against running for re-election. While that may lessen your interest in public opinion, it does not erase your responsibility to the people you currently serve. To suggest that you withhold emergency medical response to overdose patients is manslaughter at best and premeditated murder at worse. You won’t be “teaching them a lesson” or “making them afraid to overdose in Middletown.” You will be directly contributing to the exponential increase of deaths in your community. We will be sure to empower your community with the information they need to sue you and the entire town government if you choose to take this path for every life that is lost.
One key factor you are failing to recognize is that substance use disorders are exactly that, disorders. They are medical conditions that, particularly in cases of Heroin/Opiate use disorders, vastly alter brain chemistry. They compel the individual to use without “reason”. They convince the individual that using is a matter of life and death. To propose that you can withhold treatment, actively participate in the neglect of your citizens, and sit idly by as you watch the massacre that you created in the name of reducing use in your community is ignorant beyond words.
You have chosen the path of, “let them die and that will teach them a lesson.” The fact that you can even ponder this concept, much less suggest its implementation, is disgusting and sadistic. Your statements and suggestions come dangerously close to murder-for-hire. You have declared yourself as the Iceman, willing to trade lives for dollars, and we do not intend to mince words for the sake of courtesy as you have not extended courtesy to those around you.
We hope those in your family, those in your community, and those that share your responsibility to Middletown by holding public office do their very best to minimize the damage you intend to cause. We hope that the nurses, lawyers, public officials, and citizens that suffer quietly with these tremendously difficult disorders stand in firm opposition against you and any like you that consider human life expendable. More than anything, we hope Middletown can find a way to move forward in the face of this epidemic despite your best attempts to set them back.
As a public servant, your job is to serve. To serve is to find the resources necessary to keep your citizens safe and healthy. A more constructive and appropriate use of your time would be to compel your governor, your higher elected officials and the federal government to bring in the help necessary to save lives – not just with Naloxone, but with compassion, harm reduction and treatment.
Mr. Picard you are but one man. You may be a disturbed and misguided man but, you are only one man. There are many of us, and we will never stop fighting to save lives. The people you intend to let die are members of our families. We will always stand with them. Always.
This post is copied from a comment in a thread. The comment was written by Tom Kelleher who witnessed the incredible tragedy of the gentleman getting hit and killed by a driver who was arrested afterwards for driving under the influence of drugs and vehicular manslaughter.
We, as an organization, have seen an incredible up-swelling of stigma, damning language, insults and judgement towards people with substance use disorders since the tragedy. We grappled with whether we should provide a statement as an organization, or not. And then, we saw this… an approach with love. We couldn’t have written anything better. We reached out to Tom and with his permission, are sharing his words here.
Can we approach all things with love? Can we come together as a community to prevent more tragedies?
This situation is tragic, for everyone involved, all the way around. This woman and her family will feel the effects of this for a lifetime. My prayers go out to the poor man who lost his life, to this woman, to her family, to all of those who witnessed this tragic event and had to deal with the immediate consequences, and all of those who suffer addiction.
I have no judgment towards this woman. I have not walked in her shoes. I do not know the path of her life and what brought her to this point. We know not what others’ lives are like, what they experience or how they end up where they do. I have tried to approach this with “LOVE”… asking the question “What would love do?” A lesson taught to me by Anthony Tony Brunelli. I do not judge her. My first thought is “but for the grace of god, there go I.”
I have tried to approach this with “LOVE”… asking the question “What would love do?”
I too, had addiction issues in my life, that did take me to bad places and could have taken me to far worse ones. Addictions that could have taken me to the place this woman finds herself in. Addictions that could have destroyed me, my family, my life, and the lives of others. The purpose of this post is to show what drug addiction can do to someone, the path it leads them down, the tragedies that can occur, the consequences not just to them, but to their families, to others, to others’ families, to a community. If this post can deter, or change one person from going down this path, then it is more than worth it.
This post is meant to show compassion, healing, love, forgiveness. The post is meant to facilitate discussion on how we can treat addiction, as the way we currently treat it, is obviously not working. I have been working on the issue of addiction for quite some time. I have worked firsthand with individuals, trying to help them beat addiction. I have had a few successes. The path is long and hard, and the outcome never guaranteed. I have lost some to a lifetime of addiction, and lost some to death. People I knew and cared for, gone because of the horrificness of drug addiction. Dead, long before their time… passed away so young. The successes have been fulfilling, to see someone beat addition, a full life retrieved with happy marriage and children to follow, that I may have played some small role in… The addiction, hopefully a thing of their past… yet there are no guarantees.
Our area needs a full, in-house, long term treatment facility… truly long term, six month treatment, six month recovery house system. Our state and local representatives are way behind the curve as this type of facility should have been in place three years ago. Broome Developmental would be the perfect facility for this type of treatment program. It is already designed to handle inpatient, common open wards, common areas, recreation areas and the potential for recovery housing units. We should also have recovery houses located in the community.
We have had hundreds die in our own community due to this opioid crisis and government officials have been slow on the uptake to take serious actions. Secondly, this facility would be regional, helping communities across the state deal with this crisis, saving the lives of thousands, or tens of thousands of lives, as well as saving multi millions of dollars as a result of crimes committed to fund this addiction, as well as multi millions of dollars spent in our police, justice and penal systems, arresting those suffering from addiction – a MEDICAL condition, clogging court systems and jail systems, only to return them to the streets where there is practically zero chance of them beating this addiction on their own. We must, MUST, do something as a community to stop this. Please contact your state representatives – Fred Akshar, Clifford Crouch and Donna Lupardo.
But back to this moment. I witnessed this incident first hand, for this poor man being hit, then run over, then wedged underneath her car, and watched as he was dragged underneath her car for 100 feet. His body crumpled beyond recognition, broken and torn. I fought furiously, with many other people to attempt to save this man’s life, gathering bystanders together to flip this car off of him, and hopefully save him… but sadly, he had already passed.
Was I angry with her? Yes. But, I got past that immediately… I feel compassion for her, I feel badly for her. I feel badly for her family. Her child. My life, her life and this poor man’s life intersected that day, and I will never, ever forget it. It will impact me till the day I die. It has changed me.
This post was not to judge her, this was not to embarrass her. Far from it. I hold no ill will towards her, nor do I judge her. If she violated the law and is found guilty of a crime in relation to this incident, then our justice system and society will judge her. I do not. This man had no family that anyone is aware and he lived alone. He did not die alone that day, nor was the loss of his life in vain. A community came together to try and save his life, and a community came together to celebrate his life at a memorial service and vigil at my store.
Now, a community must come together to try and make certain these tragedies do not occur again and again. Life is precious. Life is fragile. ALL life.
There are no guarantees of a tomorrow for any of us.
Hold your loved ones closely, let them know how much you love them. We never know when our time comes. We never know when our last moment on this planet arrives. I wish everyone peace.
We just had a request to let someone know what support groups are available in our area, so here you go:
SMART Recovery is the leading self-empowering addiction recovery support group. Our participants learn tools for addiction recovery based on the latest scientific research and participate in a world-wide community which includes free, self-empowering, science-based mutual help groups.
The SMART Recovery 4-Point Program® helps people recover from all types of addiction and addictive behaviors, including: drug abuse, drug addiction, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, cocaine addiction, prescription drug abuse, sexual addiction, and problem addiction to other substances and activities. SMART Recovery sponsors face-to-face meetings around the world, and daily online meetings. In addition, our online message board and 24/7 chat room are excellent forums to learn about SMART Recovery and obtain addiction recovery support.
More information: http://www.smartrecovery.org/
The HOPE 607 Project, Inc.
Broome County Urban League, 43-45 Carroll St
45 Carroll Street
13901 Binghamton New York
+60 7-723 7303
AA – Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous is a program of a new way of life without alcohol, a program that is working successfully for millions of men and women throughout the world, and in all walks of life. The experience of A.A. members is that alcoholism is a progressive disease that cannot be cured, but which can be arrested — by staying away from the first drink, one day at a time.
For more information and a list of meetings in the Southern Tier: https://aabinghamton.org/meetings.html
NA – Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous is a global, community-based organization with a multi-lingual and multicultural membership. NA was founded in 1953, and our membership growth was minimal during our initial twenty years as an organization. Since the publication of our Basic Text in 1983, the number of members and meetings has increased dramatically. Today, NA members hold nearly 67,000 meetings weekly in 139 countries. We offer recovery from the effects of addiction through working a twelve-step program, including regular attendance at group meetings. The group atmosphere provides help from peers and offers an ongoing support network for addicts who wish to pursue and maintain a drug-free lifestyle. Our name, Narcotics Anonymous, is not meant to imply a focus on any particular drug; NA’s approach makes no distinction between drugs including alcohol. Membership is free, and we have no affiliation with any organizations outside of NA including governments, religions, law enforcement groups, or medical and psychiatric associations.
For more information: http://www.na.org/
Local NA Chapter website with meeting list: http://www.tcana.net/
Triple Cities Area of Narcotics Anonymous ( TCANA )
PO Box 422, Binghamton, NY 13902-0422
Local Meeting list: http://www.tcana.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/TCANA22717.pdf
A place to get clean and stay clean. Brand New meets every Tuesdays at 7pm at 1701 Riverview Dr, Endicott NY, Thursdays at 7 pm 90 Clinton St Binghamton NY. Groups for people battling drugs and alcohol or in recovery. Also a support group for the friends and family of the addict. We see real results and true freedom from addiction. We believe a life without drugs and alcohol should be exciting so we create positive outlets to have fun. Join us and Thrive in your recovery!
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1583552225231860/
Celebrate Recovery is a biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome our hurts, hang-ups, and habits. It is based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory.
Another way to search for support meetings: http://meetings.intherooms.com/meetings/search?latitude=42.098687&longitude=-75.917974&proximity=100
Truth Pharm – Garden of Hope
We have a monthly meeting called Garden of Hope which offers an educational component and then a time to share or ask questions. Special guest speakers included. A different topic each month. The 3rd Monday of every month at 6:30pm at Tabernacle Methodist Church, 83 Main St, Binghamton, NY – Enter through back. Watch our facebook page and website for details: www.truthpharm.org
Families Anonymous celebrated our 40th Anniversary in 2011. We were formed in 1971 by a group of concerned parents in California who were seeking ways of dealing with the problem of substance abuse and addiction in their children. Our members include parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, significant others, other family members and friends of those with a current, suspected or former drug problem. We have been one of the best kept secrets in the recovery community, even though we have groups throughout the world.
For more information: http://www.familiesanonymous.org/
In Al-Anon/Alateen, members do not give direction or advice to other members. Instead, they share their personal experiences and stories, and invite other members to “take what they like and leave the rest”—that is, to determine for themselves what lesson they could apply to their own lives.
For more information: http://al-anon.org/
|Tuesday 06:30 PM||11 Brandywine Ave
Binghamton NY 13901
|use back door.
also open to professionals / students
|Wednesday 07:45 PM||Christ Episcopal Church
10 Henry St
Binghamton NY 13901
|also open to professionals / students
|Thursday 07:00 PM||Christ Episcopal Church
10 Henry Street
Binghamton NY 13901
|also open to professionals / students
Alateen is part of Al‑Anon Family Groups. Alateen is a fellowship of young Al-Anon members, usually teenagers, whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. Alateen groups are sponsored by Al-Anon members who help the group to stay on track. Alateens come together to:
For more information: http://al-anon.org/how-will-alateen-help-me
NO MEETINGS IN OUR AREA
CoDA (Co-Dependents Anonymous)
Welcome to Co-Dependents Anonymous, a fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healthy relationships. The only requirement for membership is a desire for healthy and loving relationships.
Local meetings— St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 200 Jefferson Ave. Endicott, NY, Sat 1:00 PM
The Compassionate Friends:
The mission of The Compassionate Friends: When a child dies, at any age, the family suffers intense pain and may feel hopeless and isolated. The Compassionate Friends provides highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and helps others better assist the grieving family.
For more information: https://www.compassionatefriends.org/
The local chapter: http://tcfbc.homestead.com/Welcome.html
Parents who have lost a child: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1515193738693712/
Siblings who have lost a sibling: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1516508415263760/
Parents who have lost a child: https://www.facebook.com/groups/grasphelp/
http://www.intherooms.com— In The Rooms is the premier online social network for the Recovery community worldwide. Our mantra is H.I.T.C.H and our mission is to Help, Inform, Touch, Connect, and Heal those in Recovery, seeking Recovery and support for their family and friends.
HOPE OVER DOPE – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1528325370809326/
Hope vs Dope – https://www.facebook.com/groups/hopevsdope/
Addicts Fighting Addiction – https://www.facebook.com/groups/AddictsFightingAddiction/
Addiction Really – https://www.facebook.com/groups/addictionreally/
Al Anon Speaker Recordings:
SE Fighting Back is a community-based volunteer group dedicated to responding to the heroin and opioid addiction problem in the Sherburne-Earlville School District communities including Sherburne, North Norwich, Smyrna, and Columbus townships in Chenango County and Lebanon and Hamilton townships in Madison County. Since its formation, SE Fighting Back has become a subsidiary of Truth Pharm, a nonprofit addiction awareness organization in the Southern Tier, to take advantage of Truth Pharm’s resources and knowledge of the issues surrounding the heroin and opioid crisis.
SE Fighting Back Goals
– To raise awareness and educate the public
– To promote prevention, harm reduction and recovery in the S-E communities
2016 Events and Activities Accomplished by SE Fighting Back:
Community Resource/Needs Assessment
June 16 in Sherburne
October 18 in Smyrna
April 1 in partnership with SE High School – Assembly for students with impact panel
May 23 in Sherburne – Public awareness event with impact panel
June 21 in Sherburne – In-depth education night including round table discussions
“To Love an Addict” Support Group Initiated – Locations in Norwich and Sherburne on the 2nd and 4th of each month
1st Responder Resource Card – Created for Chenango County and distributed to police, ambulance and fire organizations
Discussions with Mayor Acee of Sherburne and Chenango County Sheriff Cutting to promote formation of a countywide PAARI program.
Provide support to individuals in Chenango County seeking help for themselves or a loved one.
2017 Events and Activities Potentially to Include:
Additional Naloxone Trainings
Community awareness/ education forum(s)
Prescription drug “take-back” day
1st Responder resource card for Madison County
Event in partnership with SE Central School to raise awareness and promote prevention
Initiate Recovery Coach resources for the community by sponsoring individuals to take training
Develop countywide PAARI program in Chenango County
Continued support for individuals seeking rehab and/or integrating back into the community
For More Information find us on Facebook at facebook.com/SEFIGHTINGBACK or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about Truth Pharm can be found at truthpharm.org or by emailing email@example.com.
So, “what,” you ask “does a Rainmaker do?”
What does Truth Pharm do?
Well, Rainmakers are change-makers, game-changers, powerhouses, people who refuse to accept no for an answer. They are optimistic, driven and produce results. Despite current negative conditions, they work to overcome. When a challenging problem exists with no apparent or clear solution – a Rainmaker will find and create solutions! They will take action.
That’s a Rainmaker – and that is what Truth Pharm is made up of. People who will create change and WILL have an impact on this epidemic.
Per our mission: Truth Pharm works to raise awareness, reduce the stigma, educate the public and advocate for policy and law changes surrounding substance use and treatment.
And here is a summary of how we went about creating change in 2016!
Awareness and Outreach Events:
Community Response Action Plans:
Police & Criminal Justice Outreach:
Obtaining Treatment, System Navigation, Family Awareness and Education:
Grants & Fundraising:
*2016 was the first year of our 501c3. Since we did not have nonprofit status in 2015, no fundraisers were hosted, no donations were accepted or EVER collected. ALL efforts in 2015 were financially supported and provided by Founder and Director Alexis Pleus.
As we are waking up to this news of another overdose death, can I please offer some advice?
First, most families will not want to discuss the intricate details of ‘what happened’ though most people seem obsessed or even entitled to know. The families in these early stages are still trying to process and believe ‘what happened’. It’s not your business to ask them. Though if they choose to talk about it, or want to, if you can handle it, let them.
500 messages asking “What happened” is awful and not helpful. Though, 500 messages of how sorry you are, or how wonderful your child is may save your life. Acronyms have never felt more offensive than they did getting them within minutes and hours of getting the news about Jeff. OMG and WTF messages were very upsetting to me. If you message the family member and they don’t respond, whatever you do, do not hound them for a reply. I literally had people doing this to me – demanding to be told what happened or to whom.
If you by some chance learn of the information early on. Remember, it is not for you to share with the world until the family has done so. Most of my family found out because someone posted RIP on my son’s wall before I was even notified of his death. In fact, before his body was even removed from his apartment. His brothers, father and best friends all learned of his passing from a facebook post. It’s NOT your news to share. Wait until the family posts before you post a name or information on social media.
If you don’t know what to say, the best thing to say is, I’m sorry or, I’m here for you. Or, I’ll listen to anything you have to say.
The most comforting thing is to hear about your child. Tell us a story, tell us something they did. Tell us why you’ll miss them. Tell us what you’ll miss about them. Tell us the last happy time you saw them.
Saying, “if there’s anything I can do, call me” is not helpful at all. Immediate family members in severe shock and grief have no idea what to ask people to do and can’t orchestrate volunteers and phone calls. If you want to help them, just find a way. I’ll never forget friends of our family showing up to clean my house and mow my lawn. People brought us food all week and thank god because I never would have been able to make a meal. A friend made flower arrangements to put on the tables at Jeff’s picnic… Another friend stepped in and orchestrated his picnic, many others people worked at his picnic all day and two stayed behind and managed all the clean up. Someone even showed up and brought a huge pack of toilet paper and tissues. I don’t even remember who, but it was incredibly thoughtful and believe me, I wouldn’t have thought to go to a store for anything. These were the gestures that helped us survive the first two weeks. I don’t know what we would have done without this kind of help.
And just going and sitting with them and letting them reminisce is helpful.
The following phrases are not comforting for most people: God has a plan, God must have needed him more, his struggles are over, time heals, it will get better with time, he’s at peace now… at least they were not helpful for me. Whatever you do, don’t compare the loss of a child to a pet… or even a parent… it’s really not the same, only similar.
And absolutely NOTHING about their cause of death, other than ‘you’re sorry’.
And don’t forget the children of, siblings, grandparents and close friends. They need comforting too. It meant a great deal to me to see my youngest son’s friends coming to spend time with him, taking him for a walk, fishing, whatever. He needed that too. And I know I was incapable of comforting my mom, so if I saw someone sitting with her and talking to her, that truly helped me.
I think everyone has good intentions, but it gets tiresome for someone who has just experienced the unimaginable to have to make that excuse for others over and over. Since it probably IS true that everyone has good intentions, it’s good to just try and align those with what is truly helpful.
And keep checking on them… for months… years…
Much love, Alexis Pleus mom of Jeff Dugon forever 28.