Health officials and police in Plattsburgh hope a new methadone clinic will help with a growing drug and crime problem in the area.
"We've seen a trend growing within the last eight to ten years, but the numbers are increasing even more probably for the past two years," said Michelle Collings of Conifer Park Outpatient Clinic Plattsburgh.
The new Plattsburgh methadone clinic opened in November to help those addicted to these powerful drugs get healthy. With the publicity of Philip Seymour Hoffman's apparent heroin overdose and Governor Peter Shumlin addressing the opiate problem in Vermont, Collings hopes people are listening.
"It brings more attention to the issue, so I think that's a good thing," Collings said.
Methadone is used to treat heroin and other opiate addictions. And as with other parts of our region, she says many of these addictions started with a prescription for painkillers.
"They're not able to get them off the street because of the high price, they do end up turning to heroin," Collings said.
Before this clinic opened in Plattsburgh, those seeking treatment had to go to clinics in Albany or Vermont for Methadone.
"We have a responsibility to help treat these people, when we're seeing the overdose deaths, and a lot of them are not reported," Collings said.
And, of course, the increase in drug use leads to increased crime like we've seen in other places. Clinton County District Attorney Douglas Collyer says criminal drug cases have doubled. He believes the clinic benefits the community and will reduce crime.
"The treatment aspect is important and every one case that you're successful in with treatment is one less case that's going to come back through the system, so it's definitely a savior in the end," Collyer said.
It's not only crime that's worrisome, these drugs can be snorted, smoked or injected. The clinic says most addicts are injecting and that raises serious health concerns for the community. Diseases like HIV, AIDS and hepatitis C are easily transmitted that way.