As the opioid crisis continues to take more lives here in Chautauqua County, I commend both the Post-Journal and Observer for reporting on efforts to combat this expanding scourge. It is important to educate the community as to the extent of the problem, as well as inform them of measures being taken to mitigate the damage currently being done.
However, in doing so it is vital correct information be provided to the public. In a recent article in both newspapers concerning a June meeting attended by my opponent for Chautauqua County Executive, it was incorrectly stated to a reporter from The Post-Journal that one of the peer organizations utilized to provide services to those fighting their addiction relies solely on grants and donations, and does not receive any money from Chautauqua County. This is not factually correct.
As a current Chautauqua County Legislator, and a candidate for Chautauqua County Executive, I want our residents to have correct information about a matter which is truly life and death. Currently, Chautauqua County has provided more than $113,000 in public funds this year alone to support the Mental Health Association (MHA). These are funds that come to the county from the New York State Office of Mental Health to support peer services. The County through the local governmental unit (LGU) and the Community Services Board designated the MHA to receive the funds. The funds flow through a contract between Chautauqua County and the MHA.
Additionally, in that same newspaper article, my opponent indicated he would begin a treatment program that would offer Vivitrol and Suboxone. Those medication assisted treatments already currently exist in Chautauqua County. The Department of Mental Hygiene (CCDMH), which has clinics in both the north and south county, with no waiting list, already offers both treatment options. Vivitrol and Suboxone are also part of a current treatment protocol at UPMC Chautauqua WCA, The Resource Center, and many other private providers in our county. Further, WCA will have a licensed residential treatment facility open the first quarter of 2018 at the Jones Hill facility.
If elected as County Executive I will continue to fight for funding for the MHA and other organizations on the front lines of this epidemic. In addition to the treatment aspects of this crisis, I am also proposing a law enforcement component and prevention and education strategy to defeat the opioid crisis. This includes better coordination between the various drug task forces that currently exist in Chautauqua County, the appointment of a special narcotics prosecutor in the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office, and with the cooperation of the Sheriff’s Department, the County Health Department, and the County Community Justice Council, I want to explore the possibility of creating a special Recovery Pod within the county jail system to address inmate addiction and ultimately reduce the jail population.
To prevent inaccurate information making its way into the hands of our county residents I have placed my detailed opioid response initiative on both my campaign website and campaign Facebook page that people can access and scrutinize. In examining the role the County Executive can have in combating the opioid crisis it is clearly apparent the scourge plays no favorites among age, gender, race or class. The opioid crisis affects us all, not just users and their families. We are all exposed to the crime that follows alongside addiction, as well as the lost productivity among our workforce. Communities become less safe and less attractive to live in. It is the job of the County Executive to LEAD. We cannot just talk our way out of the problem. Where action is required, action will be taken.
George Borrello is a Chautauqua County Legislator and candidate for Chautauqua County Executive.