For many residents in Oswego County, it seems as though they are learning of a new drug arrest almost weekly. This leaves many people questioning why there seems to be such a drug problem in our area.
While the issue with drugs is not just a local problem, as it is seen on a national level as well, Oswego County has enacted many ways to combat the issue such as the Oswego County Drug Task Force team and resolutions such as drug court for drug related arrests.
“There’s no direct explanation as to why such a great deal of people use drugs. Every person uses drugs for a different reason but the drugs we are seeing are primarily used because of their availability and their price. We see mostly heroin, marijuana, molly and methamphetamines,” said Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd.
The price of these drugs has become more obtainable due to an increase in illegal selling of prescription pill prices when there was a crackdown on the ability to obtain prescription pills from a doctor.
“We are seeing less bath salts and synthetics than Syracuse area and other surrounding areas because we enacted a local law banning these drugs that is written generically enough to stop production with the change of just one ingredient. This eradicated a lot of issues,” Sheriff Todd said.
With all the drug arrests presented in the media, the question arises of what happens to these offenders.
“The arrests are all dealt with as an individual situation, they’re all different. Some are eligible for drug court while others, like high level dealers are going to see prison time,” the sheriff explained.
Britani Yerdon, a 23-year-old Oswego resident found herself struggling with her addiction and ultimately paid the price when she was arrested in 2013 at the age of 21.
Arrested in December of 2013 for constructing a meth lab, Yerdon found herself sentenced to a drug treatment prison facility, Willard shock camp program, for 97 days after being charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class AII felony and unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine in the third degree, a class D felony.
Before sentencing, Yerdon was released from jail on pre-trial release on an ankle bracelet monitoring system because the jail was too full to house her. Under this system she had a certain amount of time set for appointments to leave the house and return before the bracelet would alert probation.
During this time, roughly six months, Yerdon attended classes at Farnham, a local treatment program.
After she completed her prison sentence at Willard, Yerdon was released with one year post release supervision, or parole as it is more commonly known.
Approximately one month after getting out and starting parole, Yerdon began using again.
“I got away with it for a while, about four months I got away with it before I was using every day again. I was told by my parole officer I needed to get into detox and a rehab or I was going to be going back to prison. So, two months later I finally got myself into a detox. I was supposed to be going to rehab from there but because of insurance I ended up getting sent home after nine days. Insurance is always a huge hassle for drug addicts like myself to get to approve anything. I lasted about four days before I was using again,” said Yerdon.
The cycle repeated itself for a second time and after being caught by parole, Yerdon was told she needed to enter a detox and rehab facility or she would be going back to prison, again.
While treatment facilities like Farnham provided some help in entering inpatient rehab facilities, nearly all drug users are mostly responsible for finding their own rehab and getting approval to enter the system.
Eventually, Yerdon was approved for a 28-day stay at Conifer Park Rehab that she completed and was released from sober.
Today, Yerdon has completed parole and still struggles with her addiction every day.
She continues to regularly attend one-on-one treatment at Farnham to keep her on the right path.
However, her road to success has been anything but smooth and she felt it could have gone very different.
“Honestly, in my case I think it should have been handled differently and better, only because I was a first-time offender and a user who needed help. The county jail here does nothing for you if you come in detoxing. I think they need a better system for when they arrest addicts,” said Yerdon.
While it was not offered to Yerdon, many drug related arrests are eligible for drug court.
“Drug court is available for anyone with a non-violent felony charge and some relationship between their charge and substance abuse,” said Oswego County Treatment Courts Administrator David Guyer.
Under this program, the participants will come to court for the course of one year to regularly see Judge James Metcalf who oversees the program, they will regularly attend substance abuse, NA or AA meetings and will also undergo numerous random drug tests.
56% of the participants that enter the program complete it and go on to complete three more years of probation under the same general guidelines.
That leaves 44% of participants unsuccessful in completing the program in which case they go back to their original charge and sentencing, generally resulting in a prison sentence.
Currently, there are about 80 people enrolled in the treatment program, according to Guyer.
Guyer said that participants are required to find their own substance abuse program including working with their own insurance.
“If a participant is having trouble with their insurance coverage or is forced to pay out of pocket, a lot of treatment providers have sliding pay scales based on income,” said Guyer.
Drug court is one of the solutions for the multiple drug arrests in the county that offer addicts help and a second chance before facing prison time.
“It’s a powerful force they’re fighting – addiction,” said Sheriff Todd. “Some get drug court, treatment, counseling; they use these tools to go on and lead productive lives but unfortunately there are the ones that don’t despite the support that is provided to them.”
While the number of those in Oswego County Jail for direct drug charges remains relatively high, there are many facing addiction issues that are in jail facing other charges.
“Addiction is still a motivator to commit other crimes. For example, there are people charged with burglary that are really burglarizing for money to support their drug habit,” said Todd.
The Oswego County Drug Task Force has been a powerful force in the finding and arresting numerous Oswego County drug users and sellers.
Sheriff Todd encourages anyone who thinks they have knowledge of drug use or suspicious behavior to contact the Drug Tip Line at 315-349-8222 or by email at [email protected]
Anyone can make an anonymous report and the Drug Task Force will determine whether or not to conduct an investigation based on the information provided and information already compiled in their database.
“The Drug Task Force is in a really good position. They are able to draw lines, find out who is connected and decipher those connections,” said Sheriff Todd. “I think it’s a combination of everything working together that makes it so successful. When members of the community come forward it often times corroborates with who and what we are dealing with and makes for a stronger case.”
For families that are concerned that a family member or loved one may be involved with drugs, Sheriff Todd ensures that there are options available for treatment programs to offer help.
“There are a number of organizations available to help those struggling with addiction such as Farnham. Oswego Health has contact information for rehab services as well,” he said. “If they’re not going to choose rehabilitation, then they’ll get incarceration.”