“Between the meth lab issue here in Cortland County, the heroin epidemic, it spares no one, and it’s particularly acute in our area, and that’s why I wanted the task force to come here to Cortland.” State Senator James Seward
State Senator James Seward brought the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction to the Cortland County Office Building Auditorium Wednesday afternoon for a public hearing on the opioid and heroin epidemic.
“Expansion of treatment opportunities, particularly in more rural areas, like Cortland County, that’s improved, to help people that are in recovery, to help keep them clean and to change their lifestyles,” said Sen. Seward. “Those are all positive. We need to redouble our efforts because we’re still continuing to lose way to many people.”
People like Spencer, the 22-year old son of Dean O’Gorman of Cortland who died in April from an overdose. O’Gorman told lawmakers he hopes society can get over the stigma of addiction so addicts can get help and warns parents that addicts have new ways to hide their use.
“Make sure you get trained in Narcan,” said O’Gorman. “Have it ready. You think it couldn’t happen to you? Well, I was that person. Don’t turn away from that. Educate yourself. Retrain yourself. Don’t go with what we learned in high school back 20, 30 years ago. It does not apply any more.”
Senator Seward appreciates O’Gorman’s insight. “To have a family member come and talk, humanizes the issue and really makes me redouble my efforts to do whatever I can do from the State point of view to combat this problem.”
O’Gorman believes the shame over addiction needs to change. “Truth is, family’s gonna lie. They’re going to try and hide a secret and that’s part of the stigma that needs to change.”
Then, he spoke up about the use of Narcan by first responders. “It shouldn’t be that you have a choice. It’s provided by the state. It’s our tax dollars. It’s saving lives, and it’s not necessarily about the addict, it’s about the family that just didn’t know and have that second chance to fight the problem.”
Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms also testified.
“Look. They know what we’re dealing with, just like a lot of other counties in the state. We’re gonna say a lot of the same things, but I appreciate the Senators being here and listening to us so that at least we know that somebody’s going to bat for us and trying to help us out, where they can.”
This is the sixth public forum this year. The Senators say the information they gather helps them better support efforts to deal with opioid and heroin use.
Link: O’Gorman’s Support Group 607 Healing Hearts
Link: Cortland County Health Dept Narcan Training
Note: On Thursday, Senator James Seward was named to the State Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne diseases. That group works to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of these diseases.