Our June 25, 2017 Letter to Broome County Executive Jason Garnar

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

Jason Garnar
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.

  1. County Departments that responsibly track and publicize data in a timely manner including:
  • Naloxone uses by all departments and the number of doses required
  • Overdose deaths
  • Deaths by other causes, but linked to substance use
  • Criminal acts related to substance use disorders
  • Incarceration rates related to substance use disorders
  • Success rates of various forms of treatment
  • A public calendar of all events offered by providers, support groups and grassroots organizations
  • A comprehensive list of treatment options, modalities and services within our region, allowing individual organizations to add their information and website links

Sincerely,

Alexis Pleus
Founder and Executive Director

cc: Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, NYS Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Framing an Overdose Death

Another overdose death in Broome County. A very young man at the age of 22 did not wake up yesterday (2/6/16).
 
I am getting multiple versions of what happened with this young man. Some are saying he was at ACC and left because he couldn’t take the detox. Another said he just completed short term inpatient treatment at New Horizons and was waiting for a bed at Fairview. Another said he got kicked out of treatment for testing positive for suboxone (which he was apparently not prescribed). Another is saying it was her son’s roommate at Fairview and he overdosed there.

 
In the end, I can say, I’ve been at meeting after meeting where professionals and treatment providers call this ‘failing treatment’ or paint a picture that puts the blame on the person for being ‘unsuccessful’ in maintaining sobriety. They’ll say ‘he wasn’t serious about sobriety’. They will allow his death to be his fault and his fault alone.
 
I am going to say, this young man, like so many people in this country, clearly wanted to stop using heroin, but was not given the medical attention and treatments known to be effective, the length of time in treatment known to be effective, was not provided with the level of care, transfer of care or follow-up necessary and proven to be effective. Our system and the lack of proper medical treatment failed him and he died because of it.
 
For those who don’t know, detoxing from opioids or heroin is extremely painful to the bones and muscles in your body. I heard one person describe it as feeling as if every bone in their body was breaking. Add to that nerve pain, violent shaking, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, sweats, fear, agitation, severe cravings and severe anxiety.
 
There is a method for a person to be medically detoxed. A person can be given a tapering dose of suboxone to relieve their symptoms and make them more comfortable. Suboxone also curbs the intense cravings they have. In the US, it has been determined for some insane reason, this is not a medically necessary treatment. This is based on a determination that opioid withdrawal is ‘in most cases’ non-life threatening. Somehow the medical and insurance industries have been able to take this and run with it so that people addicted to opioids going through withdrawal are not granted the medicines known to be successful in easing their pain and making them more likely to be successful in both detox and treatment.
 
Our only local detox option, the ACC (through no fault of its own) is a facility that cannot offer medically assisted detoxification. They can only offer over the counter medications and take the person to the hospital if their symptoms are severe to be given some medications to relieve some of their symptoms. Note, they are not given what is known to best relieve the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and the symptoms can still be severe.
 
Many people (we are told 4 out of 10) leave the ACC because they cannot endure the withdrawals. Again – the withdrawals they are enduring could be alleviated GREATLY if given a tapered dose of suboxone.
 
Other facilities locally won’t offer medically assisted detox because insurance won’t pay for it and they hold to the idea that it’s ‘not life threatening’.
 
For those who are struggling to not use while in treatment will get ‘kicked out’ of treatment for ‘failing’ by most facilities rather than being providing more treatment or changing the type of treatment.

IMG_6806

Here’s another fucked up thing about opioid withdrawals – long term use of opioids actually reduces your pain tolerance… so the pain that person is feeling is literally worse than what a non-opioid user would experience. And, opioids damage the regions of your brain that control judgement and motivation. So, you’ve got a person in withdrawals in severe pain, anxiety and experiencing severe cravings… they are NOT being given the medication known to be most successful in reducing these symptoms, they have a damaged sense of judgement and motivation and yet we are expecting them to have some sort of super human power, strength or ‘desire’ to outweigh all of that and stay to ‘muscle through’ a non-medically assisted gruesome detox.
 
We also know that 90 days of inpatient treatment is proven to be effective. We know there is a 90% relapse rate after short term (less than 14 days) of inpatient treatment.
 
So rather than having people say this young man at the age of 22 went AMA, was ‘unsuccessful’, ‘didn’t want it bad enough’, ‘wasn’t strong enough’ or ‘gave up’, let’s all do his family and him the honor of being honest and frank about what happened.
 
Here’s what happened – our system did not offer a young man with a substance use disorder, which is a medical condition, the medical treatment necessary and known to be effective so that he could be successful in recovery that he needed to overcome a disease which often leads to death.
 
We need to stop blaming people seeking treatment for being ‘unsuccessful’ ESPECIALLY when we are not providing them the treatment and medical assistance that is clinically proven to help them be.
 
We need to change the conversation.
 
Let’s commit to saying – this person died of an overdose because he was not provided the medical attention or treatments proven to be successful.
 
We don’t require diabetics to give up sugar before we’ll give them insulin. We don’t require smokers to quit smoking before we treat their cancer. We don’t require people with clogged arteries to stop eating unhealthy food before we’ll clean out their veins or put in stents. And if we try a treatment for any of these and it’s unsuccessful, we don’t paint the patient as not being strong enough or not wanting to be well – we try a different type of treatment or a more intensive level of treatment. 


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Rainmakers’ Report 1/17/16 – 1/31/16 – It Even Rains in Winter!

1/17/16 – Our website was updated with many improvements including Jeremiah Lindeman’s Celebrating Lost Loved Ones Map.

1/17/16 – Our first blog post – The Rainmakers’ Report.

1/19/16- Met with Jack Juran, Coordinator, Tioga County Drug Court – we met to get an overview of Tioga County’s Drug Court process and we are VERY impressed! Jack also invited us to prepare a presentation to give at their weekly meeting which will include the Tioga County District Attorney, Public Defender, Tioga County Sheriff, Head of Probation and Drug Court Coordinators.

1/19/16 – Attended our first TCCASA meeting for their Tioga County Addiction Task Force. We were offered a seat on this task force and have accepted. We will be assisting them with many of their efforts in the future. We were provided an update of what they have done to date. We were also offered the opportunity to write a summary about Truth Pharm to be included in their next news letter.

1/19/16 – We’ve received the final list from Assemblyman Crouch’s office of which EMS agencies are carrying naloxone and which are not so that we can start our outreach to them.

1/19/16 – Our 501c3 Application was submitted.

1/19/16 – Asked to be on panel of planners for Genesee County’s Crime Victims Assistance Week and to be one of the speakers for their conference. Also asked to coordinate Chief Campanello’s attendance and speaking engagement. Working on that.

1/19/16 – Asked to speak at Afton Awareness event on March 9 as “Parent Affected”.

1/20/16 – We met with Jeanette Tolson who is a private practice social worker. We discussed Jeanette’s experience in the addiction and recovery treatment world and Truth Pharm’s Core Values and areas of focus. We decided Jeanette’s and our core values are quite inline! Jeanette has graciously offered her professional training services for our upcoming Angel programs and is also willing to be a speaker at awareness events. This is an exciting partnership!

1/20/16 – We met with Tom Jackson and Benjamin Bergman. They have offered some legal expertise to us in addition to some ideas we’ll be working on together! They have also joined our board of directors which is a very exciting announcement.

1/20/16– Executive Committee Meeting

1/24/16 – Received commitment from Refabulous Furniture they will donate furniture for Oxford Police’s Community Recovery Room.

1/25/16 – We had our Rainmaker Meeting with 18 in attendance! Plans for our trips to Albany were discussed. Dannielle Swart provided a nice concise presentation on how laws are made in Albany and an overview of how to lobby to advance policy.

1/26/16 – Alexis Pleus, Michelle Ericitano and Daniel Rippe provided interviews and a response to the New York State Assembly Minority Task Force’s report on the Heroin Epidemic.

1/26/16 – Met with the Oxford Police and three volunteers interested in possibly running our Angel Program for the Oxford Police. It was a fantastic meeting and they have accepted! Sarah Francis, Donna Wood-Craig and Connie Barnes are going to be our Angel Program Leaders for the Oxford Police Department!

1/26/16 – Truth Pharm and the Oxford Naloxone training and the Angel Program featured in an article in The Daily Star newspaper.

1/26/16 – Truth Pharm and the Oxford Naloxone training and the Angel Program featured in an article in The Evening Sun newspaper.

1/27/16 – We provided a resource table at the Windsor High School Awareness event.

1/28/16 – We participated in a nationwide conference call to form committees to plan the next Facing Addiction Rally in Washington DC.

1/28/16 – Attended a webinar training to use SBIRT with Teens.

1/28/16 – Co-Hosted a community Naloxone training in Oxford, NY with the Oxford Police Department and Southern Tier Aides Program. 47 were in attendance. WICZ provided news coverage.

1/29/16 – We met with the new Broome County District Attorney, Stephen Cornwell. We listened to his ideas and plans for the future and heard his beliefs about addiction and the criminal justice system. We felt his values are well aligned with ours! He told us about many of his future plans, most of which we cannot discuss openly yet, but we are very excited about them. We told him about some of our plans and offered to partner on future projects. We also established that we will have an excellent working relationship with him in the future.

1/29/16 – We met with Donna Lupardo and provided our List of Changes Needed in New York State, our Core Values, Strategic Areas of Focus and provided our comments on the Assembly Minority’s Heroin Task Force Report. She was excited and thankful to have the data. She will use it to make connections and discuss with her colleagues. We discussed the ties of the heroin/opioid epidemic to the affects on children in New York which is a topic she champions. We would like to have members of Truth Pharm follow up on this with her some more. She provided a legislative session calendar and suggested dates for us to be most effective in Albany. She also offered to send us a list of people we should target seeing while we are there. She stressed that making appointments ahead of time is imperative.

1/30/16 – Alexis, Amy Cruz and Kim Myers met to discuss several ideas. This was an exciting meeting. Amy is putting together a proposal for an idea she has which will be an amazing and compassionate service to those impacted by deaths due to substance related causes. More to come in the future on this. We all discussed current issues with access to treatment. We also discussed our need for The Flight House.

38 facebook posts – Awareness Events, Naloxone Events, Informative Articles, Memorials to lost loved ones, stories of recovery. Over 30,000 reached. Now 2342 “Likes” on public facebook page. 108 followers on Twitter.

Treatment Access, Recovery and Support for Individuals and Families:

  • We talked a family through accessing treatment in New York State. They called Conifer who had no open beds, but gave them a list of other facilities. He was promised medical detox at St. Peter’s in Albany. The family took him, he was admitted and released 2 days later with a referral to AA meetings and an evaluation potentially for outpatient. He begged the facility to keep him and reported he was not ready to abstain without further inpatient help. Truth Pharm offered help with placement out of state, family declined.
  • A Rainmaker’s son was admitted at Conifer for their 28 day inpatient treatment, but was only kept for 3 days due to insurance denying the claim for further treatment. He was sent home. We recommended filing a complaint with OASAS and the Attorney General. She called OASAS and they told her he was lucky to get that because they’re doing away with detox in New York soon anyways.
  • The son’s (referenced above) girlfriend was admitted to Conifer for their 28 day program, but was only allowed 7 days of treatment.
  • We assisted a family in advocating to the DA, PD and Judge to have their daughter held in jail rather than released from court until they could find treatment for her. They were successful in having her held in the Broome County Jail. Unfortunately, he was locked in her cell while in severe withdrawals, had a seizure, fell, gashed her head and was hospitalized. We helped the parents communicate with CARS to see about placement with them, but their waiting list is 4 deep. New Horizons said the girl may be able to go there, but no commitment to any specific length of time. It will be based on what insurance will pay (typically 10-11 days). Parents are currently working with Truth Pharm to have her placed in treatment out of state. The Judge and District Attorney are helping with the arrangements. Truth Pharm is also raising the funds to send her.
  • 1/29/16 – Received an update from one of our gals placed in treatment through Truth Pharm and Matty in November in long term treatment in Arizona. She just received her 90 days of sobriety coin! She thanked us. She is our inspiration
  • A Rainmaker took a gal who needed help to the ACC 1/25/16. She did not last 24 hours there.
  • A Rainmaker took a friend to ACC for detox, they were provided 9 days and transferred to YMCA afterwards, but only lasted 3 days before using again.
  • Referred a gentleman to a local suboxone doctor. He said he has three professional friends addicted and not knowing where to turn for help without the risk of losing their jobs.
  • 1/24/16 – One of our Rainmakers with 23 months of sobriety celebrated getting his first apartment in sobriety! Another of our Rainmakers pulled together donations of furniture, household items and groceries and two Rainmakers picked up and delivered these items to him.
  • 1/30/16 – A special mom who is a Truth Pharm Rainmaker and is raising her granddaughter was given some grocery and gas gift cards from a special friend of Truth Pharm’s just out of love and concern.
  • Provided two people in Ohio the Naloxone Program Locator tool.
  • Provided a Broome County woman with a list of suboxone doctors per her request.
  • Referred an individual to STAP for Naloxone training and they made an appointment.
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Rainmakers’ Report 1/1/16 – 1/16/16 – It Feels GOOD to Make Rain!

1/1/16 – Assemblyman Crouch is diligently working to determine the best plan of action to require EMS agencies in New York State to carry naloxone.

1/14/16 – Executive Committee Meeting

1/6/16 – Meeting in Hancock with group of concerned citizens regarding opioid epidemic. Truth Pharm provided a proposal for a series of events and requested they create a small committee who will handle logistics. Everyone agreed to move forward with the proposal which includes An Awareness Event, A Naloxone Training, A Follow-Up Event, a High School Assembly and creating a community action group either an extension of Truth Pharm, or whatever they would like to create.

1/7/16 – Meeting with the Oxford Police and the Community Foundation for South Central New York to discuss potential funding of the Oxford Police program and discussed potential funding for other Truth Pharm projects as well.

1/7/16 – Finalized schedule with STAP for two upcoming Nalaxone Trainings – 1/28/16 in Oxford, NY at 5:30pm and 2/17/16 in Hancock, NY at 5:30pm.

1/8/16 – Interview with WICZ to discuss the number of deaths in Broome County as reported by Dr. Ryan with the Broome County Health Department.

1/9/16 – Volunteer and Committee Organizational meeting between Susan and Alexis

1/11/16 – Outstanding Rainmaker Meeting – made plans to meet every other week, discussed endeavors, rainmakers signed up to help with awareness events coming up.

1/13/16 – Meeting with Broome County Sheriff’s Office, Truth Pharm, Broome County Social Services, Broome County Mental Health, Fairview, ACC and UHS Behavioral Health to discuss the Angel Program for Broome County Sheriff’s Office. In summary – The program was developed as this: If a person reports to the BCSO for treatment, an Angel Volunteer will be called to come and do the intake paperwork with the person. They person will be asked if they would like to get long term inpatient treatment out of the area or if they would prefer going to the ACC and utilizing local treatment providers. If they want local treatment: If they have come in between 8am and 4pm, we will call New Horizons and see if a rapid access assessment can be performed. If not, the person will be taken to the ACC which is offering 2 beds dedicated to the program and if those are full will dedicate 2 more beds. From that point, ACC may perform the evaluation or coordinate with UHS and Attempt to get the person inpatient treatment at New Horizons. If they cannot get inpatient treatment at New Horizons, ACC will find them residential or other treatment elsewhere.

If they want out long term, inpatient treatment out of the area, no facility locally is willing to allow them to stay there until they leave. As of now, the plan is that the person will be allowed to go home and the Angel will work to find treatment ASAP and travel arrangements will be made. This is how Cooperstown is running their program. We are still working on this issue, but for now, we are pleased that we are at least able to still move forward.

1/13/16 – Meeting with the Lost Dog owners and Robert Riddel who have all offered to help us with a fundraiser. We will call the fundraiser “A Night of Mindreading and Magic” it will be March 11th from 6-9pm. Tickets will be $35 each. We’ll be able to sell 75 tickets. More details will follow as we fully develop the program and plans.

1/13/16 – We’ve received the initial list from Assemblyman Crouch’s office of which EMS agencies are carrying naloxone and which are not so that we can start our outreach to them.

1/14/16 – Rusty and Alexis met with our attorney regarding 501c3 regulations and our application and things are moving forward. In addition to discussions regarding insurance, the attorney is also going to provide us with a waiver we can use when helping people find treatment to protect our organization.

1/14/16 – Meeting with the Oxford Police Department and a physician who is willing to help us with trying to get other local physicians onboard with being reputable suboxone and vivitrol providers that will accept insurance. He is also willing to help us with outpatient suboxone assisted detox for persons willing and scheduled to leave town for inpatient long term treatment.

1/14/16 – Meeting with Hancock folks to discuss plans with the Pastor of the Church who manages the Messenger Hall where the events will take place. He is very much onboard with our plans and we may find him to be a serious partner in our efforts in Hancock. He is interested in creating a recovery support group in Hancock and we suggested we make a call for donations at the Awareness Event that will be used to fund this effort so we are leaving the community with a lasting and impactful resource. We have the dates set for their events: Awareness Event 2/11, Naloxone Training 2/17, Follow-up Event 3/10. Pat Simmons has made contact with the school and provided me with their contact information to plan a high school assembly which sounds like they are all onboard with.

1/14/16 – Oxford School Superintendent is interested in having us provide an event for them. We provided a proposal and outline for a possible assembly.

1/16/16 – Alexis, Sarah and Laurie attended the 5 hour EASE Volunteer training in Oneonta, NY to learn how to be a support person to someone in the early stages of opiate withdrawal.

Treatment Access for Individuals: A Broome County 22 Year Old young man flew out for long term inpatient treatment. We raised the funds to help a 22 year old young woman from Otsego County fly out for long term inpatient treatment. A Broome County young man got a bed in New York State 28 day treatment facility. Discussed methods of advocacy with the parents of a young woman in the criminal justice system. Discussed methods of advocacy with a family member who wants to advocate for their loved one in the criminal justice system.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail