Hooked on Heroin: Searching for treatment

By Matt Porter

February 4, 2014 Updated Feb 4, 2014 at 9:30 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) When Tresie Shedd's 26-year-old son Lance Weiss started to act strangely, she thought he might be stressed or sick.

"He just changed. He would come to the house to visit his daughters and he'd be laying on the couch, he'd spend a lot of time in the bathroom," Shedd said.

But, it turned out her son was one of the more than 650,000 people in the United States using Heroin.

"Drugs never came across my mind," Shedd said.

In the past five years, Heroin use has more than doubled across the country including in Broome County.

In the last five years, at least 13 people have died due to a Heroin overdose according to the Broome County Health Department.

The death rate in Broome County has doubled according to the department the last two years.

Shedd said she ignored the signs until she couldn't anymore.

"They were coming to the house for visitation with their kids, he actually had needles on him," she said.

Shedd became so worried at one point, she called the Broome County Sheriff's Office on her own son fearing he may overdose or commit suicide.

"Somebody's got to help him," she said. "I know he's going to be safe in jail, or he's going to end up killing himself."

Her son has been arrested six times, including two felony theft charges.

He's currently serving a sentence at the Groveland Correctional Facility until November.

As more addicts end up behind bars, the Addiction Center for Broome County is taking a new approach to help addicts battle their cravings.

Cassandra Ekstrom works as a Yoga instructor helping a class of more than 20 addicts learn better habits.

"Exercise in general is really a mood booster, and a lot of our clients have lower moods because of their addiction or mental illness," Ekstrom said.

Ekstrom said her once-a-week class has more than doubled in the last year, and many of her students at the clinic ask for other places to practice.

Executive Director Carmela Pirich said the mission of the center isn't to just get people clean, but to provide them methods and strategies do avoid falling back on bad habits.

"Part of the recovery process is that we want our clients to be able to take the best care of themselves," Pirich said.

The addiction center is also the only place locally addicts can receive outpatient mental health counseling along with treatment.

The nearest facility doing the same is in Syracuse.

The ACBC services include individual and group therapies, anger management, and classes on taking care of children among others.

In light of the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman who died of a Heroin overdose after being clean for more than twenty years, Pirich said the center hopes addicts come back when they need to.

"People have to have an understanding and awareness that it's a life long disease," she said.

Outpatient facilities like the ACBC are more important as detox programs admit fewer and fewer Heroin addicts because their withdrawals are not usually deadly.

Pirich said most addicts refused from detox and who don't get help from a place like the ACBC will end up in prison.

Last year, 1,005 people visited the ACBC and many were referred from prisons.

Tresie Shedd's son Lance is eight months away from his scheduled release date, and she hopes someone can help her son before he finds himself back behind bars.

"He said...'They're just going to send me to a motel, where all the drugs are because that's where they send people, and I'll be right back on it,'" Shedd said.

Shedd is worried if her son is arrested for a third felony, he could be in prison for decades instead of years.

(This is part three of a three-part series on Heroin addiction in the Southern Tier)