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Efforts in Oswego to curtail opioid crisis continue

Farnham Family Services in Oswego partnered with Oswego Police to allow opioid addicts to turn in their drugs and not be arrested as long as they seek treatment

As the opioid crisis continues across the region, there have been a number of efforts to combat drug use. But some have been more successful than others.

Back in March, Farnham Family Services in Oswego partnered with the Oswego City Police Department for the Rapid Evaluation For Appropriate Placement -- or REAP -- initiative. The program allows addicts to turn themselves and their drugs in to city police, with the guarantee that they won't be arrested as long as they complete a treatment evaluation with Farnham within five days.

Oswego Police Lt. Zachary Misztal the collaboration was an effort to extend police aid beyond enforcement of the law.

"We saw that law enforcement services alone, and just arresting people alone isn’t doing enough to combat the problem," Misztal said. "So we wanted to partner with Farnham Family Services to also help with outreach, and getting people services so they can beat some of the addictions that opioids had brought."

But the program hasn’t attracted many users since its implementation. In fact, Farnham Family Services director Eric Bresee says there has only been one successful recovery so far. But the low turnout doesn’t disappoint him too much. 

"When District Attorney [Greg] Oakes, and Mayor [Billy] Barlow, and Chief [Tory] DeCaire and myself all came together, we really said to each other, 'Look, if this helps even one person, then it’s worth the effort that we’ve put into it,'" Bresee said. "And it’s at least done that."

While the REAP program may not be attracting many drug users, another program offered at Farnham could be having a greater impact.

More than 15 people have signed up in the first month of a medication-assisted program at Farnham. Bresee says having medication available is often more encouraging for addicts who are concerned about the severe withdrawal symptoms that result from quitting opioids.

"There’s lots of folks that are coming in and starting to be successful with treatment, who maybe previously were unable to do that," said Bresee.

Though the opioid crisis isn’t going away anytime soon, Bresee says he’s hopeful that the continuous efforts to fight it will create a shift away from drugs in the coming years.

"Think about smoking cigarettes. Go back 20 years, everybody smoked everywhere, and look around now," Bresee said. "People just don’t smoke cigarettes like they used to. The needle has shifted. So it’s possible. We can get there. We just need to keep truckin'."

Erin Meyer is a student at SUNY Oswego and an intern at WRVO Public Media