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Monroe County heroin task force stabilizes problem

by Katherine Fernandez - Copy Editor
Thu, Feb 21st 2019 02:00 pm

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 1.7 million people in the United States are addicted to opioids, with over 600,000 of those people suffering from heroin related addiction disorders. 

Monroe County law enforcement has officially released a statement declaring the ongoing heroin problem within the county is “stabilized,” leaving many residents searching for a definite answer. Since its establishment on February 1, 2018, the Monroe County Heroin Task Force (MCHTF) and the Opioid Command Post have seized over $310,000 worth of opioids and over $330,000 in cash from dealers, as stated in the one year progress report they released. When addressing the media at a press conference held to discuss the facts of the progress report, Sheriff Todd Baxter elaborated on the results.

“That is 31,000 bags of death these guys recovered in 12 months,” Baxter said of the amount of heroin confiscated during the year. “You don’t know which one of those bags will cause a death, but we know how dangerous each of those bags are.” 

The MCHTF also seized 29 firearms during the drug busts.

In the last 12 months, 1,101 residents of Monroe County have overdosed on opioids, but less than 15 percent of those overdoses were fatal. While referring to a map of the reported heroin overdoses in the last year, Sheriff Baxter addressed the 159 red dots across the board that signified fatalities. 

“Keep in mind each one of those dots is a loved one,” Baxter said. “A mother, a father, a brother, a sister.” 

The information on the map is a conglomeration of data collected by the various law enforcement agencies who respond to overdose-related 911 calls. This tool has become an indispensable part of the MCHTF’s operation, helping them track spikes in overdoses within 24 hours which can then allow them to see where extra manpower should be focused. The organization have been able to follow the trail of overdoses back to the dealers’ routes along the Interstate 390. Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley warned drug dealers that their punishment is imminent, hoping to deter them from their illegal trade.

“We are the leader in prosecuting individuals in homicide cases for opioid deaths” Doorley said. “We have no mercy and we want them to go to state prison as quickly and swiftly as possible.” 

The MCHTF has made 94 arrests in the last 12 months. This, along with the confiscation of drugs, money and weapons related to the distribution of heroin and the collection of overdose statistics data, attributed to the relatively low body count, thus effectively stabilizing the effects of the opioid crisis within Monroe County.

According to CNN, a panel of addiction experts say that heroin is the most addictive and destructive opioid on the market. Addiction is measured by weighing factors like monetary value, intensity of withdrawal symptoms, pleasure experienced under the influence of the drug and the capacity for harm. 

Despite the results that the task force have been able to produce, Baxter continues to strive towards an opioid-free community.

“We still lost 159 souls, so by no means are we here to claim victory,” said Baxter. “Our first goal was to stabilize the problem and make sure we’re doing our end, the intense enforcement and then the follow up prosecution. We’re not going to stop…”

The MCHTF offers several resources to those who are seeking treatment for their addiction along with educational tools like opioid overdose training, teaching citizens how to properly respond in the event that someone suffering from a drug overdose and needs immediate attention.

If you or someone you know is recovering from an opioid addiction please call the Substance Overdose Awareness Recovery Services (SOARS) at (585) 771-0896.

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