ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- A new report by Common Ground Health has labeled Chemung County as having the highest rate of opioid abuse throughout the Finger Lakes region.
The report, citing hospital and emergency department data over the course of 2016, says residents visited the emergency room 161 times for abuse or overdoses. It also says five people died from opioid use that year.
That's why the county's health department says opioid abuse has become a priority in its Community Health Improvement Plan.
"I don't think there's any one county who has been spared from this," says Peter Buzzetti, Director of Public Health at the Chemung County Health Department. "I think we're all in it together."
That means pairing with Arnot Health, as well as agencies like Trinity of Chemung to work on a plan of action.
The report also confirmed that for many residents, a dependency on opioids first began with a prescription from their doctor. According to data from 2014 to 2016, 54% of users who overdosed throughout the region had an opioid prescription within two years prior.
"I know I've heard now of people going to the doctor and they have to have surgery and they will say 'I don't want to be prescribed an opiate because I don't want the potential of any issues," says Buzzetti.
For that reason, the Department continues to work with surrounding counties on how to best tackle this ongoing epidemic. And for many, that means involvement from the whole community.
"I do know these problems [aren't going] to go away on their own and that's why I'm relieved to know we've already built an infrastructure to deal with this," says Buzzetti. "I can tell you we're all on the same path of community partnership."
Both officials with the Chemung County Health Department and the Department of Mental Hygiene we spoke with say the report's data can be misleading, saying it doesn't account for overdoses and deaths that occur outside a hospital, or doesn't consider other contributing factors.