A panel of experts told Madison County residents Tuesday night that they have made significant headway in the bath salts crisis in just the last month. But as our Andrew Sorensen tells us, they still believe the epidemic is far from over.
ONEIDA, N.Y. -- Bath salts panels have been held in nearly every county in Central New York over the last few months, but Tuesday night's panel at Oneida High School marked one of the first times law enforcement and medical professionals had some good news for their audience.
"They're unfortunately still increasing, but they're not increasing as dramatically as we've seen in the past," Upstate NY Poison Center toxicologist Dr. Alexander Garrard said.
"We were averaging probably I would say six to eight calls a week concerning bath salts. And now we probably haven't had two or three, if that since that started," said Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley.
At the end of July, the DEA initiated headshop raids dubbed "Operation Log Jam." Weeks later, Governor Cuomo and the state Health Department passed a stricter ban on the drugs.
Sheriff Riley says the two acts have cut significantly into the bath salts supply.
"We only had one raided here in the county. Tebb's I believe it was in the City of Oneida, and the other ones kind of shut down on their own once the word got out," Sheriff Riley explained.
Despite the efficiency of the current efforts, experts say there's a long legal battle ahead to make sure the people of Madison County are safe from bath salts.
"When you enact a new law that puts someone in jail for up to 15 days, these guys couldn't care less about doing 15 days," Madison County District Attorney William Gabor said.
Gabor says the newest laws aren't nearly tough enough, and perpetrators can slip away with law enforcement's inadequate technology.
"Because there are so many changes weekly, we have to do better and get better field tests in order to even make the arrests," he said.
He also says there are problems in prosecution. It takes nearly nine months to test the substances, far beyond the time they can hold a suspect.
Experts say the best way to combat the continuing problem is through being proactive.
"It takes a village truly to get rid of these substances and to say to legislators and to law enforcement, we don't want these substances here," Dr. Garrard said.
The DA hopes to get stronger teeth against the drugs by pushing the county to reconsider a ban before the State Assembly gets around to considering new measures in their next session.
Madison County also credits their new bath salts task force with educating the public on the dangers of the drugs.