Matt Woodring used to leave his Pittsford home to waste hours each day walking up and down North Clinton Avenue in Rochester waiting to get his next fix.
“More often than not I’d be sick. Addicts get physically dependent on the drugs and it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to go use at home I just needed to get what I needed to get,” Woodring said.
The North Clinton neighborhood was and remains our area’s heroin epicenter.
“It’s a diverse group. You have folks from the suburbs, folks from the city, you see older folks, this addiction doesn’t discriminate and I think we’re seeing that more in the news these days, that it affects everyone,” said Tom DeBlase, a community outreach specialist at Trillium Health’s needle exchange program on Central Avenue.
As the heroin epidemic grows DeBlase has seen more users from the surrounding neighborhood and from the suburbs.
They come for the drug, but DeBlase says they also come for the free, clean needles.
“You are actually allowed to buy syringes at a pharmacy, but there’s a lot of stigma attached with that. I think it comes from a place of good intentions, but when they treat someone very poorly when they go to buy syringes and it is there right to do and they have the right to do, but they’ll just make them feel bad about themselves,” DeBlase says.
Whatever the draw, heroin has become a monstrous problem for neighbors.
Dirty needles sit on the ground like cigarette butts, found around parks, yards and sidewalks.
This past fall Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren called for a collaboration.
Trillium Health, the Rochester Police Department, neighborhood associations, and others are now pushing plans that include making the area less friendly to dealers and less accessible to users.
There is also talk of creating a new drop-off treatment center.
“I think over the years, (the heroin problem on North Clinton) has gotten progressively worse,” Warren said. “We have partnerships with many of our local hospitals and Trillium and other organizations, but we recognize that a lot of people are not from this neighborhood, they come to this neighborhood to use drugs and we want let everyone know it’s not just affecting the City of Rochester, but the entire community as a whole.”
Meanwhile, Woodring will continue to make himself seen on North Clinton, but not as an addict.
He now works for Trillium Health.
“I need a daily reminder of where I will be if I don’t do the things that I have to do to keep myself sober,” Woodring said.
Those reminders come as he tries to help people who find themselves walking the same path he once did.