Following a recent 24-hour period during which rescuers in the City of Buffalo handled at least 10 heroin and other opioid overdose cases, the head of one local treatment center is asking: where's the public outrage?
Late last week, just one day after Erie County health officials predicted a significant spike in fatal heroin overdose cases this year, police and other first responders handled numerous overdoses, one of which proved fatal and two of which involved the same addict.
Anne Constantino, president and CEO of Horizon Health Services in Buffalo, says while the public has come forward with outcry over subjects such as tragedy on local roadways and animals subject to abuse, they've not shown the same level of concern for what other health officials are defining as a heroin abuse epidemic.
Constantino, speaking with WBFO in her office on Monday afternoon, acknowledged the often-shared cynical stereotype of addicts by the general public as losers who chose to get into addiction and really don't want to be helped.
"I think people need to open up their eyes and realize they're talking about their neighbor, their community, their relatives, their friends," said Constantino. "I don't know anyone who is held harmless, so those people who are talking... the only thing I would say is they probably need to open their eyes and become aware of what's going on."
In addition to the cynical look upon addicts, there's also the notion by many that they're just too smart to get caught up in addiction. Health officials disagree, pointing out that addicts often begin with painkillers and other easily-accessed prescription drugs. The user over time gets addicted and, in search of the next high from an accessible and affordable source, often gets into heroin.
Opioid addiction, Constantino noted, comes quickly and even "smart" people can easily get caught up in it.
"A lot of the young people that we're seeing, these are scholar-athletes. These are honor roll students," she said. "These are not bad people or stupid people. Smart doesn't have anything to do with it. Upbringing doesn't have anything to do with addiction."
Law enforcers have also previously pointed out that the heroin problem in Erie County extends into the suburbs and outlying areas. While the overdose cases may be happening in the city, the users are coming into Buffalo from throughout the county.
In 2014, 119 people died of heroin and opioid overdoses. Last week, the Erie County Health Department predicted that this year's death toll could be twice that number.