Sending A Message

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan’s multi-pronged strategy to combat the area’s heroin epidemic has come to fruition.

On Wednesday, representatives from law enforcement, health care and other social services convened at Jamestown Community College to put their so-called “action teams” to the test, identifying what specific obstacles are hindering drug rehabilitation and what can ultimately be done to overcome them.

The five “action teams” are: law enforcement/courts, public relations, treatment, advocacy and education/prevention.

Horrigan, who has frequently stressed the importance of communication between individuals and organizations, believes the teams are not only an ideal way to effect change but to mobilize the public.

“My goal is to make a ‘megaphone’ voice that brings people together,” Horrigan said. “I continue to see progress when we come together … and now we’re really starting to build some momentum.”

Pat Brinkman, county mental hygiene director, corroborated this statement by describing how issues are finally being translated into concrete legislation because of “voices coming together.”

“There’s finally a bill in the legislature that is going to address the commercial insurance issue,” said Brinkman, referring to the spirit-crushing insurance complications that have often prevented addicts from getting effective treatment. “Our voices are blending with others across county lines … and we’re now making a difference.”

Notable topics discussed at the meeting included drug rehabilitation programs at the jail; easier access to drug treatment courts; tougher drug laws; a more expansive public relations campaign to convince people that drugs – and heroin specifically – are a significant problem in the county; a proper referral system after addicts leave the emergency room; long-term halfway houses for recovering addicts; and ensuring physicians can properly attend to addiction-related problems.

For Horrigan, these issues – and the drug epidemic at large – have become a central part of his administration.

“This is my thing,” Horrigan said, emotionally. “We have to figure out that this is important to each and every one of us. I even spoke to businesses … and said this is your problem too. This isn’t just our problem or somebody else’s problem … or a cop problem … or a mental health problem. We’re going to solve it together.”