Opioid Crisis

WXXI, in partnership with public broadcasting stations across New York state, will air special programming examining the opioid crisis during the week of Oct. 15.

New York’s Opioid Crisis is a first-of-its-kind partnership to draw attention to this public health crisis and raise awareness of services available in local communities for those affected by opioid addiction.

Support for opioid crisis programming on WXXI is provided in part by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. A complete list of programs can be found here: WXXI.org/opioid-prog.

We want to hear what you have to say about opioid and heroin use in our community. Please click on this link to take a short survey.


This fall Governor Andrew Cuomo announced more than $25 million in federal funding would help address the state’s ongoing work in combating the opioid crisis. More than a dozen counties classified as “high-needs” will receive a portion of that funding including Monroe and Wayne Counties.  Need to Know’s Hélène Biandudi Hofer recently spoke with Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez of the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services to get an idea of where things stand in the Empire state in helping people access treatment, services and recovery support.

The origin of the opioid epidemic can be traced back to a number of causes including increased marketing of opioids by pharmaceutical companies and overprescribing by physicians, to name a few. Regardless of how it started, we are now in the middle of a public health crisis, affecting people of all races, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ages. The last being the focus of this edition of Need to Know.

So often we hear about people between the ages of 18 to 25 or 35-years-old battling addiction. But the opioid epidemic has almost doubled for Americans over the age of 50. That’s according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Bringing this hidden problem into the light is one of the reasons Angela Lana of Irondequoit shared her story with us. Angela says addiction does not discriminate and that those dealing with this struggle are not junkies as they’re often labeled, but someone’s child, or someone’s husband, wife,  mother, or father.

People over the age of 50 in Monroe County are the fastest-growing age group for opioid-related deaths - up almost 400 percent between 2014 and 2017. That being said, why is geriatric addiction so often kept behind closed doors? What do we need to understand about this problem in an effort to help and meet the needs of our friends, family members, and loved ones battling this issue?

The opioid crisis in Monroe County continues to take lives, break families, damage dreams, and devastate communities. There are now 122 reported opioid deaths in the county this year, as of October 2018. Are we seeing improvements with this epidemic or are things getting worse? The answer depends on who you ask and the statistics you read. On this edition of Need to Know we join public broadcasting stations throughout the state for a special report: New York’s Opioid Crisis.

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

Today, Chacku Mathai is the CEO of the Mental Health Association of Rochester.

But at 15, he wanted to die.

Describing himself as an immigrant kid with dark skin in a largely white neighborhood, he said he felt misunderstood and targeted at school. He attempted suicide by overdosing on alcohol and other drugs.

Simone Ochrym / chasingnirvanaclean.blog

For Simone Ochrym, the moment of recovery that interests her the most, is the turning point.

"What was that moment, where you said to yourself, I’m done. I have to go into recovery?"

That’s the focus of her new series, Chasing Nirvana Clean. It’s a series of essays and photographic portraits chronicling people’s battles with opioid addiction. The project usually starts with an interview.  

Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

Harm reduction services like syringe exchange programs are not often the first programs promoted as treatment for opioid addictions. But staff members at Trillium’s local program want active users to know there are other options, if more traditional and clinical methods of treatment don’t work for them.