ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Monroe County Heroin Task Force has a warning for the community after a high number of fatal overdoses recently.
“Anything you’re taking right now, you gotta really think about, because there’s a really good chance it will kill you,” said Deputy Michael Favata with the Monroe County Sheriff’s heroin task force. “We just need people to understand that these products are dangerous. You may think it’s cocaine or just pure heroin, but it’s not.”
In a 48-hour span in the past week, seven people died from drug overdoses. Over the weekend, three suspected overdoses happened at a house on Grand Avenue.
“These people were alone. You look at the three people on the porch there on Grand Avenue, you have three people who are bent on addiction, three people use, no-one else is there to call 9-1-1, give Narcan, whatever it is,” Favata said. “That’s majority of what you’re going to see with our fatals.”
The Monroe County’s Sheriff’s Office said the overdose deaths could not be tied to a specific batch of drugs at this time, but they said “we are aggressively investigating the source of this poison that is plaguing our community and will hold those responsible accountable.”
Deputy Favata says after a reported overdose, his team responds within 24 hours to help and provide services.
“Understand we are there to help you, no questions asked. Remove the uniform at that moment. I am not prying. I don’t care where you got it from at that point,” Favata said. “I don’t care about that warrant that you have, because most likely you have a warrant because of what’s going on with your addiction. So if we can fix that, we can fix future encounters with law enforcement.”
Deputy Favata says compared to this time last year, overdoses are down by about 100. But officials say that might not actually be the case and overdoses may be much higher.
“I had overdosed myself multiple times. Three times, I was Narcaned. There were so many more times than that,” said Stephanie Forrester, the Co-Founder of Recovery All Ways (RAW).
Forrester says the numbers are probably much higher because the majority of overdoses go unreported. She says with Narcan more accessible, less people may report overdoses.
“Lots of different organizations that are doing outreach and trying to help people, are finding used Narcans all over the streets, in abandoned buildings, this problem isn’t getting any better, no matter what the statistics are showing,” Forrester said.
Favata said numbers go unreported because they only report what they know.
“Think of how many people have been Narcaned, how many people have been dropped off to the hospital, that we don’t know about,” Favata said. “We started asking people, have you overdose in the past that wasn’t reported to either 9-1-1, police, fire, whatever and it’s amazing the responses we get: yeah, sure, I have overdosed but they had Narcan so we brought them back and off they go.”
Drug use and overdoses have specifically hit the county’s homeless population hard during this pandemic. RAW works on providing outreach and resources to these individuals, but say it’s been a tough time.
“The drugs are obviously changing on the streets, they are more at-risk. And the homeless population has definitely, I would say doubled, since we started going back out again in January,” Forrester said.
RAW hosts community outreach events every Saturday. Meals, clothing and free Naracn training is provided there. They are also looking for more volunteers. You can find more information here.
If you’re in assistance of the Monroe County’s heroin task force, you can find information to contact them here.