Surge of drug overdoses puts strain on Syracuse Rescue Mission

Jun 26, 2017

The Syracuse Rescue Mission dealt with another surge of drug overdoses from synthetic marijuana in late May. It wasn’t the first time more than a dozen individuals overdosed on or near the Rescue Mission campus in one day, and it most likely won’t be the last. But it’s an added stress to an agency that’s trying to help homeless individuals get back on their feet.

Rescue Mission CEO Alan Thornton says these overdose surges generally happens when a bad batch of synthetic marijuana, also known as spice, turns up in the neighborhood.

“Typically what happens, you’ll have someone who may not be staying with us, but getting something from a dealer that’s nearby our location. And what happens is they use it and they come into our campus, and then our staff has to provide care for them,” Thornton said.

Thornton says these kinds of scenarios stress out some Mission clients, who struggle with addiction. But it also puts a strain on staff members.

"To be honest, you’re a social work student. You’re going into social work, you probably weren’t thinking as a case manager you were going to be helping someone laying on the floor overdosing, by administering Narcan. So it creates an additional stress to the individuals, the case managers, our team who are dealing with it on a day in, day out basis.”

Thornton believes the answer to the ongoing synthetic drug and opioid epidemics, that have hold of central New York, is stopping drugs from coming in by putting teeth in the law to arrest dealers. He also believes treatment options should be expanded for individuals grappling with addiction.