Opioid-Related Deaths Reach New High in Southern Tier

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Opioid-related deaths climbed across the Southern Tier in 2020 and are on track to reach another new high this year.

“Everyone’s a target,” New York Assemblyman Philip Palmesano said. “This does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor and it doesn’t care if you’re from upstate or downstate.”

 Overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – up 30-percent compared to 2019.

Locally, numbers are also on the rise. In the Southern Tier, every county except Tioga and Schuyler experienced a spike in opioid-related deaths last year.

Chemung County saw 19 fatal opioid-related deaths in 2020 compared to 15 in 2019 and eight in 2018. That number was slightly lower in Steuben County, which recorded 11 fatalities last year.

Data shows fentanyl made up a majority of deaths, partially because it can be easily mixed with other substances, according to health experts.

“That’s one of the leading causes for overdoses, people taking things because they’re buying them illicitly,” Steuben County Sheriff James Allard said. “They think they know what they’re buying and then it turns into a fatal overdose.”

New York State has increased opioid treatment funding but local officials tell 18 News that more needs to be done.

“We need to make sure [the money] gets out to communities where these where these problems are,” Palmesano said. “These problems are happening in every community across the state [and] we’ll never arrest our way out of this.”

There are a number of treatment centers in the Twin Tiers, including at Arnot Health. Help is also available through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-4357

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