Broome County declares opioid state of emergency

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Broome County Executive Jason Garnar declared a State of Emergency Wednesday in response to a recent spike in opioid overdose deaths.

Garnar was joined by other county officials in announcing the unprecedented action.

Typically, states of emergency are reserved for floods or severe winter storms, but Garnar says six overdose deaths in the past 10 days makes the situation a crisis.

Officials believe the recent spate of deaths are being caused by synthetic fentanyl which can be much more potent than heroin.

District Attorney Steve Cornwell’s office has been tracking opioid deaths for the past few years.

Cornwell says Broome was seeing great success, going 70 days without a death at the end of last year.

Now, there’s been 10 already so far this month.

Cornwell says the suspected higher potency fentanyl poses a threat to everyone. Cornwell says first responders are also at higher risk as the fentanyl can be inhaled at the scene causing an overdose. He says some fentanyl users can become violent with police, EMT’s and hospital personnel.

Garnar’s state of emergency declaration contained two orders to help speed the response to the crisis.

The first requires all EMT’s to report all overdoses to law enforcement.

The second directs the county coroner to alert the DA’s office when samples are sent to labs so that toxicology reports can be subpoenaed and acquired more quickly.

Garnar plans to convene a meeting of local stakeholders tomorrow to develop a further plan of action.

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