Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Office of the County Executive
Chautauqua County Executive George M. Borrello recently received a report entitled, “2018 Summary and Recommendations,” from the Countywide Alliance for Enforcement and Rehabilitation (CAER), which outlines the task force’s progress in addressing the county’s opioid crisis.
CAER, which was formed by Borrello in January 2018, focuses on strengthening law enforcement, prevention, education, and treatment services to address the opioid crisis and reverse the number of opioid deaths occurring in Chautauqua County. The task force consists of members from the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office, Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, Chautauqua
County Department of Mental Hygiene, law enforcement, hospitals and drug treatment clinics, school districts, peer support groups, and advocacy groups.
“CAER has been hard at work determining the extent of the opioid and drug crisis in Chautauqua County,” said Tom Tarpley, Chair of CAER.
“Through our extensive discussions and review, this task force has identified ways to improve drug treatment, enhance prevention education, and better prosecute and reduce the amount of drug-related crimes in our communities. In addition, we have already experienced some success through the current decline in drug overdose and drug-related deaths in our county as we project that drug overdoses have declined as much as 65.5 percent and drug-related deaths have declined as much as 59.4 percent when compared to similar data from 2017.”
According to statistical data the committee received from the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, from January through September of 2017, Chautauqua County had 29 drug overdose and 32 drug-related deaths. In comparison, for these same months in 2018, Chautauqua County has seen 10 drug overdose and 13 drug-related deaths.
The report also provides five recommendations for the County Executive to pursue in 2019. These recommendations include:
1.) Combining the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force (STRDTF) and the Jamestown Metro Drug Task Force. This would create one unified task force that covers all of Chautauqua County where local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies could more effectively work together and share information to arrest drug dealers.
2.) Add a full time investigator to the District Attorney’s (DA) office. This investigator position would assist the DA’s full time narcotics prosecutor with narcotics cases. The investigator would respond to the scenes of overdose deaths to ensure evidence is being properly collected and critical witnesses are being interviewed to allow for the successful prosecution of drug dealers.
3.) Transfer the duties of the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene to the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services. This would provide a unified county department that addresses health and social issues. It would rename the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene to Chautauqua County Community Services and reclassify the current mental hygiene director position. With this transfer of duties, Chautauqua County Community Services could then work to further strengthen drug prevention education programs for our county’s youth, address issues of pregnant mothers giving birth to children who are testing positive for narcotics in their systems, work with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office to implement a drug treatment pod in the jail, and create a pilot program of peer counselors who would follow up with individuals who have been rescued with Narcan.
4.) Begin the process to research the potential to open a crime lab in Chautauqua County servicing the Southern tier of New York and areas within the state of Pennsylvania. This would allow the task force to further review the possibility of establishing a crime lab in the county, which would allow evidence to be processed and analyzed quickly for prosecution.
5.) Enter into an agreement with the Erie County, Pennsylvania Coroner’s Office to share information concerning autopsy results of Chautauqua County Residents who die in Erie, PA area hospitals. When a Chautauqua County victim of a drug overdose is transferred to Erie, Pennsylvania for treatment and later dies as a result of the overdose, death information is not routinely shared between Erie County and Chautauqua County. By entering into an agreement with Erie County, it would allow local authorities to better conduct investigations against the person who supplied the victim with drugs.
“I applaud the CAER members for what they have accomplished in their first year and I look forward to further reviewing their recommendations on addressing the opioid crisis,” said Borrello.
To view a full copy of CAER’s 2018 Summary and Recommendations report, visit www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/186/County-Executive.