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Heroin epidemic reaches Chautauqua County

The opiate epidemic has reached the Southern Tier, just as in Erie County.

Though there haven’t been as many confirmed fatal overdoses, people in Chautauqua County are using heroin because it’s much cheaper than buying prescription pills on the street, Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph A. Gerace said Saturday.

“Right now, demand is off the charts,” Gerace said.

The Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force, which includes the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and Dunkirk Police, announced the arrests of three people charged with selling heroin to undercover task force agents.

Christian O. Opio, 33, and Maylee Nunez, both of Jamestown, were arrested at about 6:15 p.m. Thursday on warrants out of Jamestown City Court.

James H. Boardman, 28, was arrested Friday night at his home on Hagerdon Hill Road in Ellington, the task force announced. Boardman tried to flee into the wooded area around his home, but was apprehended around 7:45 p.m.

Each was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. All three are expected to face additional charges, the task force said.

In addition to heroin, deputies in Chautauqua County have found some people are using fentanyl, and authorities are deploying the opiate antidote Narcan in order to save lives, Gerace said.

And while the problem may be perceived as only affecting people with lower incomes, those aren’t the only ones, the sheriff said.

“It is affecting every walk of life,” he said.

The task force encourages anyone who sees drug-related activity in their area to call them at (800) 344-8702 or the Dunkirk Police at 363-0313.

In Erie County, the epidemic has reached the level of a public health crisis, Erie County Health Commissioner Gale R. Burstein has said. At least 10 cases of opiate overdoses in Buffalo occurred over a recent 24-hour period thanks to what authorities believe is an incredibly potent batch.

Gerace said the level of opiate abuse in his county also has reached crisis level.