Forum on Heroin and Opioid Abuse includes Association of Counties’ Executive Director Acquario


NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario provided the county perspective on a regional panel devoted to the topic of New York’s heroin and opioid epidemic. The community forum, part of the bi-partisan Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addition, took place this morning at Hudson Valley Community College and was sponsored by Senator Kathy Marchione.

The forum included members of the bi-partisan Senate Task Force and featured experts in the fields of education, law enforcement, mental health and substance abuse, municipal officials and individuals directly affected by opioid abuse.

“The past few years have seen a resurgence of heroin use across New York State. Our counties – from the sheriffs’ departments to our mental health workers, our public health officials, to our jails and probation officers – all need to work together with state officials to come up with the best strategies to curtail this epidemic now, before more innocent lives are lost,” said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of NYSAC.

The Association of Counties is working with the New York State Sheriffs Association in support of the State’s Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. The Task Force will hold continue holding a series of forums across the state and, based on public input, develop a series of legislative recommendations.

“Heroin does not discriminate. It can take hold of members from all families in all socio-economic categories: rich or poor, functional or dysfunctional, black or white, suburban or urban,” said Chautauqua County Executive Vincent Horrigan, who recently held a Family Forum on substance abuse in the county. “We had 250 participants and the stories were heart wrenching. This needs to be one of our top priorities and we need to come together to find real solutions.”

How does the rising use of heroin and opioids impact our counties?

Whether an individual is dealing with addition and recovery, or has been arrested for a heroin-related crime, county departments are involved at every step along the way:

  • The County Sheriff or Police Department is involved at the point of arrest. Law enforcement is also engaged in drug prevention education.
  • The County Coroner or Medical Examiner is there in cases of fatal overdoses.
  • The County District Attorney prosecutes those arrested and/or is involved in enrolling addicts in drug treatment programs.
  • The County Public Defender defends those who can’t otherwise afford an attorney
  • County Jails house those charged with (or convicted of) drug-related crimes when there is no other place to go but behind bars.
  • County Probation Officers make sure those arrested and released from jail do not relapse, avoiding a repeat of the cycle.
  • The County Department of Mental Health & Chemical Dependency helps those recovering from drug additions.
  • County Youth Departments are involved in prevention and education, a task that becomes more difficult as a drug becomes more popular.

NYSAC and counties throughout the state will be working with the Senate Task Force to address the current heroin and opioid problem, while continuing to focus on preventing drug abuse of all kinds.

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