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Heroin and opioid forum

Senator John Bonacic, left and Senator Phil Boyle preside over a meeting regarding heroin and opioid abuse.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
May 13, 2014

MONTICELLO, NY — “We’re fooling ourselves if we think we can educate these kids, and at the same time pass laws that legalize marijuana. We cannot do that… It is a gateway drug. When we see people who are in trouble with the law, people who are in prison now, what do we see in their presentencing reports? They started with marijuana.”

That was one of Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell’s contributions to a wide-ranging discussion on the heroin and opioid epidemic that is sweeping the county and the nation. The informal meeting was hosted by Sen. John Bonacic and Sen. Phil Boyle, and is one of 17 such gatherings across the state intended to help the senate craft legislation to address the problem.

Bonacic, who said he considered himself a novice on the subject, asked, “If I do heroin one time, am I addicted?”

Izetta Briggs-Bolling, executive director of the Recovery Center, said it depends on the individual; heroin might be a drug that gets one person instantly addicted while cocaine might be that drug for someone else.

Several of the experts on the eight-person panel said that access to treatment is one of the large hurdles facing addicts and treatment providers. Joseph Todora, director of community services in Sullivan County, said some people who are addicted to heroin or other substances and are seeking a 30-day inpatient course are told by their insurance company or HMO to try to kick the habit as an outpatient first.

He said, “We have professionals in our offices who can look at a person and say, ‘This is not going to work,’” because it also has to do with a person being in an environment that is conducive to recovery and away from all the people who have influenced their drug use.”

Peter Lazier, father of an addict who was shot and killed by his dealer in October 2013, said, “Thirty days is not enough, because addiction to heroin is very powerful.” He added, “We’ve got to get to these kids before they try it.”

Lawrence Thomas said education in schools about drugs and addiction needs improvement. He said “We need programs that last years, and that provide opportunities for students to really process the information they get… We need simulations or assignments where students can really think about what kinds of decisions they’re going to make…. ”