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Onondaga County Sheriff's Department starting new programs to help fight opioid drug addiction

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta and Sheriff Gene Conway at a news conference announcing the new programs.

The Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department is starting up a couple of new programs in response to the opioid abuse epidemic in Central New York. 

Addicted inmates at the Onondaga County Justice Center will have an option to help start the process of kicking the habit, with a dose of a drug called Vivitrol. 

Sheriff Gene Conway says the drug can prevent a relapse for 30 days.  So anyone addicted to heroin or prescription opiates who agrees to it would get an injection shortly before they’re released from jail.

“Therefore it helps eliminate that situation where so many people are being released from being incarcerated and then they’re going back out into the community and reusing,” said Conway.

In order for the drug to be effective, it must be injected monthly in conjunction with counseling. The sheriff’s department will work on arrangements for follow up for the former inmates. 

Conway has also announced that the department will start an “Angel” program, based on a similar one in Massachusetts, which let deputies become resources for anyone in the community that needs help finding treatment for drug addictions. Conway says the sheriff’s department, along with other local agencies are stepping up the fight against drug addiction at a time when it’s become more and more common in the community. But he says this won’t change the department’s enforcement role in the war on drugs.

“This in no way means we are not going after those people who are trafficking off drugs or profiting off drugs. But I as sheriff am willing to state, we have an addiction problem in our community,” said Conway. "In my 40 years of being involved with police work in this community, I’ve never seen the illegal use of drugs to this magnitude.”