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Needle and drug drop boxes installed at 8 police departments in Onondaga County

Eight police departments in Onondaga County will now have needle and drug drop boxes installed at their facilities. They include the Baldwinsville, Camillus, Cicero, DeWitt, Geddes, Manlius, Marcellus and Syracuse police departments. It is part of an effort to reduce the number of heroin and opioid addictions in the county.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta said one of the reasons for the rise in opioid addiction seen across the country is the increased use in prescription painkillers.

“People first get addicted to those pain medications and when they’re not available, they end up switching to heroin, which is easily available, cheaper and highly potent at this point,” Gupta said. "You want to reduce the supply, from a public health point of view, you take back whatever medications are there in the cabinets, anywhere that could be tempting to not only young adults, but any family members."

There have been 46 heroin-related deaths in Onondaga County so far this year. More than half of those deaths were the result of heroin mixed with fentanyl, a more potent opioid. The number of deaths caused by the heroin-fentanyl mixture has almost doubled from 2015.      

But Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said that is why this drug drop-off program is important.

“You have been prescribed painkillers for maybe a simple operation," Fitzpatrick said. "As a result of that you might have numerous pills sitting in your medicine cabinet and you think they’re going to just sit there forever. Unfortunately, they’re being gobbled up by the children in this county. This is a serious problem. It's cause the deaths of young children and young adults in this county. Nothing could be sadder than seeing some of the men and women in law enforcement, some of whom are in this room, who have saved individuals because of the use of Narcan, only to have that individual die, just a couple of months later.”

Since the program started last year with just two police departments participating, more than 1,300 lbs. of material have been collected. This Saturday is also the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day when narcotics can be brought and disposed at participating drug stores.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.