After heroin deaths, Broome officials building overdose database
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.
If you are visiting this page you are probably well aware of the Opioid Crisis that is happening in our Country. It is effecting far too many families. It effected me too- I lost my little brother J.T. J.T. was the most charming person you would ever meet and could light up any room with laughter. He was my best man at my wedding and many people considered him their best friend. He became addicted to powerful painkiller called OxyContin. Before 2007 I had no idea what OxyContin was. After hearing many more stories similar to my brother’s on the news I decided to become involved.
In my daytime job I am a geographer that works for Esri- the leading mapping software company. I wanted to apply those skills and technologies to help get the word out. There is a definite stigma about people who use drugs. This storymap “Celebrating Lost Loved Ones” shows a very small sample of people who have been lost to the epidemic. Their picture has a bio with details about what made them special.
The map is embedded here on TruthPharm:
Here is the form to submit your loved one:
The Lost Loved Ones map started roughly a year ago and now has over 150 contributions, really a tiny fraction of what is occurring. However, it illustrates that this problem is happening everywhere, to really great people. More mapping is being done around the epidemic as well and can be found in this gallery:
Some of the other maps are demographic maps that look at deaths by county, states that have Prescription Drop Off Locations, where Naloxone was used to save a life, and where over-prescribing is taking place that will likely lead to more problems.
Maps are a great communication tool – I hope you find them useful in helping get the word out about this epidemic to help drive more change. Thank you TruthPharm for all that you are doing!