All full recap of Chuck Schumer’s visit to Cortland County (Photos Included)

Senator Chuck Schumer in front of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office on discusssing the rise of Xylazine overdoses and deaths. (Photo provided by Timothy A. Bennett, Owner & Publisher of The Cortland Voice).

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer stood in front of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office on Friday to discuss the dramatic local rise of Xylazine (as known as “Tranq”), a deadly, skin-rotting tranquilizer that’s often mixed with fentanyl.

The drug is fueling a wave of overdoses and deaths in Cortland and Onondaga counties, and across central New York communities.

“Upstate New York is seeing a dramatic rise in Xylazine, a horrific skin rotting zombie drug, plaguing our streets, overwhelming law enforcement and causing serious concern because it is Narcan resistant, putting lives at greater risk,” Schumer said via release. “The feds need to accelerate their efforts to crack down on this drug illegally being shipped from overseas and unlawfully making its way onto the streets of Syracuse, Cortland County and communities across New York. In far too many communities, including central New York, the pandemic has made opioid addiction and its health impacts worse, and Xylazine could make this growing problem even more deadly which is why we need the feds to step up now. We need an all-of-the-above approach: cutting off the flow of drugs, aid to our law enforcement, more interdiction, prevention, treatment and recovery for those suffering with addiction.”

Schumer announced a three-pronged plan to combat Xylazine. The steps are as follows:

  • The need for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to accelerate its operations to track down illicit sources of Xylazine that are plaguing Northeast, and Upstate New York in particular, to cut off supply that is flooding New York streets. 
  • A new detailed push to supercharge the federal COPS Hiring Program with nearly $537 million in new funds to help stop drug trafficking in its tracks. 
  • An all-of-the-above approach to treat the overdose crisis, and a call for new boosts to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) appropriations, including grants that can be used to fund testing infrastructure for xylazine.

“I don’t think people realize quite how dangerous this drug is,” said County Sheriff Mark Helms. “Small communities like Cortland are often the last place the public expects to see a new drug take hold. Most of the public has never even heard of Xylazine, but it’s important that they know it’s already here.”

Xylazine, a sedative that is most commonly used as an animal tranquilizer by veterinarians, is now a deadly drug finding its way throughout central New York and its surrounding areas.

It is often being mixed with fentanyl, heroin and cocaine – leading to countless overdoses and deaths. 

The New York State Department of Health confirmed the presence of Xylazine in the Onondaga County drug supply. More recently, there have been reports of a light shade of purple/lavender heroin laced with Xylazine in Cortland County.

“The uptick in Xylazine related overdoses is a concerning development in the national opioid crisis, which has hit our local communities hard,” Cortland mayor Scott Steve said. “We are thankful to the Senator for hearing our cries for help and coming here today to take action.”

The Syracuse area has seen over 40 overdoses from Xylazine in just the first week of March, and is the suspected cause of two recent deaths in the city. According to the Cortland County Mental Health Department, at least two of the 11 overdose deaths in 2022 involved Xylazine.

“We want to save lives. We care about everyone in our Cortland community,” Sharon MacDougall, the Cortland County Mental Health Department director of community services. “Xylazine presents such a safety risk; worsened and often fatal when mixed with other drugs.  Our four serious concerns are Naloxone might not reverse a xylazine overdose; normal toxicology screens might not find xylazine; it can cause severe skin wounds causing other medical complications; and can cause serious and unmanageable withdrawal symptoms. Efforts to prevent this drug entering our community is critical as we support those working towards substance use recovery.”

Here are some more photos from Friday (Photos provided by Timothy A. Bennett, Owner & Publisher of The Cortland Voice):