Tioga County steps up to rid neighborhoods of heroin

By Perry Russom

July 23, 2014 Updated Jul 23, 2014 at 7:12 PM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) As the heroin crisis grips the region, community leaders in Tioga County come together to learn how they can fight the drug.

Health experts call heroin "the drug without a face," as it has no stereotypical user.

"Suburbia, we're seeing it among the affluent," said Michelle Caliva, of Update New York Poison Center. "We are seeing it among the poor. We are seeing it among educated, non-educated. It's just prevalent across the board."

Caliva was the keynote speaker at the 411 conference at Owego Middle School.

"I didn't know anything about heroin, really," said Sister Mary O'Brien, of Tioga Center Rural Ministry. "I learned about the different type of substance it is. It's white or brown."

Caliva said the reason heroin has been able to infiltrate such a variety of communities is because of the price.

Drug distributors had to stay competitive during the synthetic drug craze and with the expense of prescription medications, heroin dealers dropped their prices so more people could afford it.

"We can't just let them lay in the gutter and die," said Justin Nugent, an EMT with Tioga Center. "I'm sorry."

Nugent said he's seen the drug of choice in the area go from meth, to bath salts, now to heroin.

He's even given CPR to a 12-year-old hooked on the drug.

Nugent said getting the drug out of the neighborhood comes down to money.

"Somebody in (the conference) brought up a very good point," said Nugent. "It's $10 for a bag of heroin. It's $60 for the Narcan."

"Heroin is one of those drugs the brain loves and as soon as you get it into the system, it's very difficult to get off of it," said Caliva.

She said the best way to fight the heroin use in your community is through education and helping abusers get treatment as soon as possible.

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