Tompkins County
New York

Report or Discussion Item

Supervised Injection Sites - Continued Discussion from October 2017 Health and Human Services Committee Meeting


Department:Health and Human Services CommitteeSponsors:
Category:Public Safety


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Meeting History

Dec 18, 2017 4:30 PM  Health and Human Services Committee Regular Meeting

Ms. Kelles stated the discussion is intended to be educational and to ask the necessary questions of others in attendance. She stated a Supervised Injection Facility (SIF) is only one of twenty-five recommendations included in the Ithaca Plan.

Dr. Klepack stated there have been discussions regarding this topic by the Community Mental Health Services Board and the Board of Health that have included honest expressions of concern. The discussions have shown a need for continued community conversations. He spoke of the need for additional information and statistics regarding SIFs and the opioid epidemic in Tompkins County. He further explained that there are limited resources in gaining this information and there is a need to respect those gathering the information.

Mr. Kruppa reported the Community Mental Health Services Board met earlier in the month and said they are not ready to take a position on this. They are still gathering information and have requested additional information before making any decisions. He explained the Board of Health is in a similar position. The Community Mental Health Services Board asked Mr. Kruppa to relay a message to the Committee that they want to play a role in understanding this issue and provide information and feedback to the Legislature.

Mrs. McBean-Clairborne stressed the importance of receiving input from the advisory committees as this progresses forward. Ms. Kelles stated she was in agreement and asked Mr. Kruppa to extend an invitation to the members of the Community Mental Health Service Board and the Board of Health to the January 2018 Health and Human Services Committee meeting to join in the discussions.

Dr. Waldman suggested gaining input and information from Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, and Nurses who work at the hospital and witness the large amount of care and utilization of resources that is expended for substance abuse cases. She explained that the care provided is not preventative care but rather care that is provided after something has gone wrong and could be more useful in other areas.

Dr. Waldman spoke of her experience volunteering at the needle exchange program. She stated 99% of the population she has worked with have higher Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Scores and are extremely vulnerable.

Ms. Pagano explained how it is bothersome to her to see people being treated the way addicts are treated and views SIFs as community-friendly to assist in providing the connection for the clients with people who will care and help guide them into better decision-making and wellness.

Ms. Chock agrees this is a public health problem and should be treated as such. She further believes the pharmaceutical companies that have helped escalate this problem should be held responsible. Ms. Chock stated County Staff needs to be on board prior to proceeding and using taxpayer funds to move forward with SIFs.

Ms. Chock inquired about the $6.5 million budget Dr. Barry mentioned in his presentation. Specifically, she asked how much would be used for the needle exchange program and what types of potential would there be for State and Federal funding. Dr. Barry spoke of his experiences in dealing with New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and said if the funding for a particular program being requested is of interest to the NYS DOH then they usually work to find funding and the NYS DOH is interested in SIFs. He stated the budget for the needle exchange program is between $600,000 and $700,000 and the funding is provided through the NYS DOH, Office of Drug User Health. He stated he has found a significant amount of funding for the drug user health programs and he is aware that foundation funding is not sustainable long term.

Mr. Burbank spoke of the large number of needles not properly disposed of in various places throughout the community. Dr. Barry stated the needle exchange program collects about 85% of the needles provided and explained that a benefit of the SIF is that people who use at a SIF would use their equipment on sight and dispose of it on sight.

Ms. Black spoke of the video and how it is a constant reminder of a need for assistance in our community. She said the Legislature is looking at all options in addition to SIFs including treatment options, increase in the number of beds available for treatment, and the LEAD program. She stated the conversations are taking place and they need to continue.

Ms. Black asked Dr. Waldman how many people she sees in the Emergency Room on an average shift who are there for substance abuse related injuries or illness. Dr. Waldman stated it varies but on average about ten percent of the patients she sees per shift are there for substance abuse related treatment.

In response to an inquiry by Ms. Black, Ms. McElroy explained that the number of people seen daily at a needle exchange site varies substantially but on average between twenty and fifty people are seen daily at the Ithaca site and annually over 500 people are seen through the needle exchange site.

Mrs. McBean-Clairborne spoke of moving forward with the Ithaca Plan and how this needs to be done carefully and ensure that there are additional items being addressed. She said the entire Legislature is not there yet as a body and there is a need for additional conversations so the fears people have can be alleviated and that proper information is disseminated.

Mrs. McBean-Clairborne in relation to the topic being discussed stated people who are looking for Drug and Alcohol Counselors have found there are very few, if any counselors of color in Tompkins County. She explained that scholarship opportunities for people of color have been created for those who are interested in entering the field of drug and alcohol counseling. The Park Foundation in coordination with Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) have worked together for the first round of these scholarships and are accepting applications for the next round that are due December 22, 2017. The requirements include course work to be completed towards a position in drug and alcohol counseling and following completion of the course work the individual would return to Tompkins County for employment. The program includes tuition to TC3 and they will work to remove any and all barriers to completion of their course.

Following an inquiry made by Ms. Kelles, Ms. Celentano stated the concepts can be difficult for people to understand but once they are provided the proper data and statistics they realize the positive approach this type of program can have.

In closing, Ms. Kelles stated the County is currently facing a housing crisis, facing a need to identify mechanisms to assist community members who are at risk of incarceration, reduction to recidivism, lack of childcare crisis, large divergence from wealthy to poor, and many other issues. The County is looking at various programs to address these issues, simultaneously, in addition to discussions regarding SIFs and the importance of continued discussions.