A new Siena Poll addressing the state's opioid epidemic shows that 54% of New Yorkers are personally touched by opioid abuse.

Director of the Siena College Research Institute Don Levy says there is no argument that this is an epidemic.

"When we said has it touched your life? Is someone in your family, is someone you are friendly with, someone you know from work, do you know someone who has died from an overdose...when you look and say how many people meet at least one of those conditions, its nearly six out of 10 New Yorkers, it’s an astronomical figure."

It’s not everyday that you hear about a neighborhood, plagued with drug sales and use, coming together and saying: “We have had enough, no more!” That’s exactly what’s happening right now in the City of Rochester’s North Clinton Avenue neighborhood. It’s an area so synonymous with drug activity, some refer to it as “Heroin Alley.” On this edition of Need to Know, you’ll see it’s also a place working to forge a new path.

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Abuse of opioid drugs has cost the U.S. a lot of money in a number of ways. That includes a big impact on business, particularly the construction industry.

Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

On a Thursday evening at Gates Town Hall, the parking lot is busy. Coffee is brewing and someone is cutting up a pan of homemade brownies. Boy Scouts in full uniform run to a meeting down the hall.

It doesn’t feel like a place where people are about to be trained in how to use potentially lifesaving medication. But everyone in this room has come here to learn how to administer Narcan, also known as naloxone, which blocks the effects of opioids and can reverse an overdose.

An annual memorial service honoring the start of National Crime Victims Week focused on the opioid epidemic Sunday.

Members of Recovery Now New York, Substance Overdose Awareness Recovery Services (SOARS), and other community members gathered to remember those lost to an opioid overdose, and say they are crime victims as well.

Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode said the epidemic is taking more lives than people might think.

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Wendyl Jones recalls an old James Brown song that delivers an apt warning about heroin.

“He said it would 'drive you to hell,' and that's exactly what it will do. I've lost multiple friends over the last couple of years due to this."

A tear runs down Jones’ cheek as he describes his trip to hell.  

The 42-year-old’s heroin addiction began about seven years ago when he started taking Percocet, an opioid pain medication, after he injured his neck and back in a car accident. 

Denise Young/WXXI News

Monroe County officials released figures Wednesday that show the deadly impact that the opioid crisis has had on this area.

At a news conference at Greece Town Hall, County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said in the first half of 2016, the medical examiner’s office reported 97 overdose fatalities directly attributable to the use of heroin, opioids and other related substances.

In the same time period of 2017, there were 115 deaths.


In an effort to increase access to addiction treatment services in the wake of the opioid crisis, the New York State Health Department is giving hospitals an opportunity to add more in-patient detox beds.

The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) is temporarily waiving a certification requirement that would allow hospitals to add detox beds through the end of this year. 

Monroe County currently only has 25 such beds, even though addiction specialists say the need is four to five times that amount.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to impose a tax on manufacturers of prescription opioids to help pay for state programs that assist people who are addicted to them. But some say it will be patients who ultimately will have to pay the price.

Cuomo laid out the opioid tax proposal in his state budget address nearly two months ago, saying it’s only fair that the makers of the pain pills shoulder some of the financial burden of treating people who became addicted to the medicines.

There will soon be more help for people dealing with addiction on the east side of Monroe County. 

Gates to Recovery, which is a volunteer-run effort that has been in that town for the last few months, is getting ready to open two satellite centers, one at the Webster Community Center and the other in East Rochester.