TICONDEROGA, Ny.- The heroin and opiate epidemic isn't something new to the northeast. Officials in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York are continuing to work to find ways to reverse the trend.
“We are seeing much more prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse in upstate NY then we used to in the previous years,” said Chief Mark Johns, with the Ticonderoga Police Department.
Johns says that abuse has led to an increase in the number of drug related crimes. He says last year alone at least 40% of all arrests were drug related.
“They were either intoxicated by drugs or alcohol at the time of their arrest or we could definitely attribute that they are committing these larcenies or burglaries, etc., to finance the underlying substance abuse problem,” said Johns.
But police aren't the only one's noticing the growing problem.
“The town recognized that there were some serious drug issues in the community,” said Johns.
A pharmacist in town says over the last 5-7 years he's seen the number of people abusing prescriptions increase dramatically.
“No one entity was going to solve the problems locally so we formed a coalition that involves enforcement, prevention, treatment, and education where we are looking at local strategies to make a difference in the ticonderoga community on these controlled substance issues,” said Johns.
The Ticonderoga Neighbors Addressing Drug Abuse Coalition was formed last year, but this week it will host its first community forum. Johns says the goal is to begin a conversation about the community’s drug problem and create local strategies to fight it.
“Just educating the public on some of the substance abuse issues that the people who are involved in enforcement, treatment, and education are actually seeing in the community,” said Johns.
Johns says the drug abuse problem not only contributes to the town's law enforcement expenses, but impacts the quality of life of the community. So through the creation of this forum, town leaders are working to get ahead of the problem before it becomes a much bigger issue.
The community forum is free and open to anyone. It will be on Tuesday, August 12th from 7- 8 P.M. at the North Country Community College in Ticonderoga.
Following the panel's presentations there will be time for questions from the audience. Organizers also plan to show a short documentary film that highlights how this issue is affecting families at all socio-economic levels.