WXXI AM News

opioid crisis

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Virtual groundbreaking ceremonies were held Wednesday for Villa of Hope as the non-profit builds, what it described, as the first-ever detox and outpatient center in Monroe County.

The organization says in 2017, 1,700 people had to travel out of Monroe County for treatment because of a lack of available beds.

Chief Medical Officer Kim Sadwick said that Villa of Hope will be able to offer so much more to meet the needs of the community with the new facility to be built in the town of Greece.

Fatal overdoses in Monroe County involving heroin, fentanyl and related substances were down in 2019 compared to the previous two years.

That’s according to an annual report released by the Monroe County Office of the Medical Examiner on Friday.

The report indicates that 181 people died last year because of overdosing on those drugs. That compared to 195 deaths from overdose in 2018 and 220 deaths in 2017.

Officials say that overdoses accounted for 20% of all deaths investigated in Monroe County in 2019, which was comparable to previous years.

As of earlier this month, Monroe County has seen an increase in opioid overdoses -- both fatal and non-fatal --compared to this time last year. The work of first responders who arrive at the scene can be the difference between life and death.

A new documentary called "Opioids from Inside: First Responders" explores the epidemic from the perspective of firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics who are on the front lines. The film airs on WXXI-TV on Tuesday, but first, we get a preview with the men and women featured in it. They discuss their work and how the crisis has affected them personally. Our guests:

  • David Marshall, director and co-producer of "Opioids from Inside: First Responders"
  • Lt. John Vagg, Rochester Fire Department
  • Dr. Scott Dent, M.D., family medicine specialist at Rochester Regional Health
  • Krista Lattuca, Rochester resident in recovery, and recovery coach at Rochester Regional Health  

We continue our conversation with Dr. Tim Wiegand from UR Medicine about the opioid crisis. This hour, Dr. Wiegand discusses an opioid prescription "opt-in" program for patients post-surgery. He says that program has led to a significant reduction in opioid prescriptions.

We discuss the impact of the program and the broader opioid crisis. Our guest:

  • Tim Wiegand, M.D., director of toxicology at URMC, and associate director of the UR Medicine Combined Addiction Fellowship Training Program

We check in on the opioid crisis and how the pandemic has impacted it. Harvard’s Julia Marcus has compared the pandemic to the opioid crisis and the AIDS crisis when it comes to harm reduction strategies. We discuss what works and what the experts are learning.

Our guests:

  • Tim Wiegand, M.D., director of toxicology at URMC, and associate director of the UR Medicine Combined Addiction Fellowship Training Program
  • Julie Stampler, harm reductionist and board member of the National Harm Reduction Coalition

Gino Fanelli/CITY Newspaper

Deaths from heroin in Monroe County have shrunk by a wide margin over the past two years, but users are still overdosing at roughly the same rate, according to new data from the county's Heroin Task Force.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office

  

Calling it an "industrywide conspiracy," Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his intention to file a lawsuit for the overprescription of opioids that he said has defrauded New Yorkers out of billions of dollars. 

Cuomo said his Department of Financial Services is gathering evidence for a lawsuit that he said extends beyond the drugmakers to the drug distributors and pharmacies for what the governor said is systemwide "fraud" that went on for decades.

According to data from the Monroe County Heroin Task Force, the number of deaths from opioid overdoses in Monroe County dropped to the lowest point in April, since tracking began. But since then, there's been a spike in the number of fatal overdoses.

A local nonprofit called ROCovery Fitness is expanding to meet the needs of people throughout Monroe County and the Southern Tier who are struggling with different kinds of addiction. We sit down with ROCovery’s co-founder to discuss how the organization’s programs are growing, and we hear stories of recovery from two of its members. In studio:

  • Yana Khashper, co-founder of ROCovery Fitness who is living in recovery
  • Monica Starr, member of ROCovery Fitness who is living in recovery
  • Emily Balch, member of ROCovery Fitness who is living in recovery
  • Sara Ormsby, therapist

James Brown WXXI

Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello claims that County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo’s efforts to tackle the opioid epidemic do not meet the scale of the problem. The Democrat, who is challenging Dinolfo, the Republican incumbent this fall, called the epidemic the largest public health crisis to hit Rochester in his lifetime. 

“This is one of the largest public health crisis to hit our community in my lifetime and I think the response from our government needs to be scaled to match that level of emergency,” said Bello.

According to new data, the number of deaths from opioid overdoses in Monroe County decreased for the first time since 2015. Nearly 200 people died from overdoses in 2018. Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Michael Mendoza says the use of overdose reversal drugs like naloxone is a primary reason for the decline, but he also says long-term solutions are needed to combat the epidemic.

Several Democratic presidential candidates have released their plans for addressing the crisis. This hour, we explore the state of the opioid epidemic both at the local and national levels, and our guests discuss if they think the proposed policies could be effective. In studio:

  • Dr. Michael Mendoza, M.D., Monroe County Public Health Commissioner
  • Dr. Michael Apostolakos, M.D., chief medical officer for the University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Laura Garrison, vice president for development WXXI and The Little Theatre, who has experienced long-term chronic pain

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