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Ithaca police chief: Heroin is “an epidemic” in our community

Ithaca police chief: Heroin is “an epidemic” in our community

From left, Ithaca Police Chief John Barber, Ithaca Public Information Officer Jamie Williamson and Deputy Chief Peter Tyler addressing city lawmakers Wednesday, July 23./Peter Blanchard

Heroin use is no longer just a problem in bigger cities. As WHCU’s Pete Blanchard details in this week’s health report, it’s a public health issue right here in our own backyard.

Last week, top Ithaca police officials appeared before the city’s common council to discuss their department’s goals ahead of 2015 budget discussions.

An issue that seems to come up time and again for local law enforcement is heroin.

When asked by city lawmaker Cynthia Brock how real of a problem heroin has become for their department, Police Chief John Barber gave a frank answer.

“I’m very comfortable saying that heroin is an epidemic in our community,” Barber said.

Heroin use is up all across the northeast. It’s become cheaper in recent years and is more available than ever.

Authorities have cracked down on prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin, and people who found themselves unable to get what they wanted turned to heroin to satisfy their addiction.

Mayor Svante Myrick said people who were once dependent on prescription drugs are now using the needle.

“There’s no doubt that the availability of prescription drugs has gone down because of some wise changes that were made to track them, and the cost of heroin has gone down,” Myrick said. “Those two things are meeting in the middle to create a whole new pool of customers.”

In response to an increase in drug overdoses in the community, Barber says his officers will be trained to use Narcan, a drug that when administered can effectively reverse the effects of an overdose.

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