Opioid Crisis hits small town in WNY

June 6, 2017

Written By

Mary Friona Celani
Olean is a small town of just about 15,000 people in Cattaraugus County.  It is a quaint town with mountain views, plenty of little shops, even a post office that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
They also have a problem with opioids. Specifically heroin.
It’s a deadly problem. According to a group called Winning Olean Back – Four people have died from drug overdoses in less than a week in the small town. Residents want answers. And help. I’ve heard from several people who say not much seems to be happening.
Congressman Tom Reed was there recently talking about Russia’s influence on the election.
The Olean Common Council is focused on a new contract that will keep the SPCA as the city’s dog control agency.
According to those I talked with, there is a task force working to get a grip on the deadly problem and the police department seems to be working on things; but there doesn’t seem to be any lawmakers out there yelling and screaming about the problem that is killing people.
Four.  In one week.
Ronda Pletl knows about the problem first hand. Her daughter Katie, now in jail, was missing for weeks.  Ronda was overwhelmed wondering if her daughter, who’d been sent to the hospital from a rehabilitation facility, was dead or alive. Ronda turned to a local group for help and guidance.
That group has been overwhelmed the past few weeks.  Winning Olean Back is a community group run by Shannon Scott. Their mission is to help get addicts into treatment.  To help get them sponsors. To help bring awareness to the deadly problem running rampant through their small town. Scott says it’s about as bad as it gets in the small town, “I don’t care who you are, what you do or how much money you have, everybody is impacted. Everybody knows somebody. A person struggling, a family who lost someone. Something.” Scott says she knows the families who’ve lost a loved one in the past week. Four of them. Four families living in hell right now. Four families wondering what they could have done. Should have done. Four families too many.
Scott and her group have organized a candlelight vigil to bring awareness and offer support, “People have blinders on. Not my town, not my family, not my anything.  We are trying to help the community, the police, the addicts, the families.”
Experts will be on hand to help those in need.
For Shannon Scott, who is a mother of four,  this is a personal mission that began with heartbreak, “A friend of mine passed away at age 28 last year and left behind two little boys. At that point I said something has to be done.”
Now, she’s laser focused on helping in any way she can. Focused on making a difference.
VIGIL: Wednesday, June 7th at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Lincoln Park in Olean
I have a call out to the Olean Police Department for comment on this deadly outbreak. I will update once they get back to me.


About Me

Welcome to Totally Buffalo! My name is Mary Friona-Celani and I am the creator of this site! After spending 20 years in the Buffalo media, I moved on to focus on my beautiful family. Now, the time has come for a new project. I was ready for something new. Something mine.
I am born and raised in WNY and my pride runs deep. My husband, Scott and I are very happy to be raising our four daughters here.






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    I’m originally from Olean, now living in Belleville, IL, which is near St Louis. The opioid problem is rampant everywhere, but especially here. Same kind of stats, or worse. And no one has effective answers. Sad.

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    The DA just put someone in jail on murder charges for calling the cops because someone she was shooting up with had O.D. That’s the kind of forward thinking of lawmakers here.

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    The D.A. of Catt. Co. just put a young woman away on murder charges for calling the paramedics when someone she was shooting up with O.D.’d. I don’t think that is helping anyone, it’s doubling down on the harm to the community.

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    So sad, and your right….where are the “all knowing Politicians”. Where is Chuck Shumer, your State is Democrat – Has been for years and years. Where are they now. Corruption in most of the States that have been run by Democrats. All talk – no action. So sad – my hometown.

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    You short up someone and they die, you killed them. You need to go to jail.

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    Mike, while NY is marked as a Democratic state, the area in question is heavily Republican. I know, I’ve been there. I have family there. They voted for Trump.

    I also currently live in Ohio, a state woo’d and wow’d so much by the Donald and heavily Republican outside of its openly gay-heavy city of Columbus. The problem throughout most of this state’s small, red towns is just as bad, if not worse, than Olean’s.

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    It’s terrible how this happening all over…
    And yet there is an herbal alternative that has helped thousands overcome opiate addiction (Kratom) and the instead of allowing people to use this all natural plant, the FDA is going to ban it and and allow Big Pharma to turn it into a pill to then line their pockets yet again… Heaven forbid we have the opportunity to fix these issues ourselves…no, they have to turn it into a pill and mess with the chemical structure.
    I pray that somehow, someway…everyone struggling finds the help they need and the strength to overcome the beast that is addiction

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    Dem or Rep doesnt matter dead is dead and help is needed. Lets pull together as civilized and caring people.

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    I tried to address this issue years ago with my daughter who was addicted to oxycontin. I and her husband brought her into OGH seeking rehab help which she wanted but once in the Er she backed out of. she had threatened to kill herself earlier because of lack of oxy. Constantly putting her 4 little ones in danger I had to threaten to bring back 8×10 glossy’s of these babies bodies burned to death before the hospital did something. they did. They discharged her. And called CPS. Who sent her to rehab . Who put her on synthetic heroin. is this the answer? One drug and addiction for another.????

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    It is easy to cast blame on others, to compare how bad opioid addiction is here or there, to blame the victims of this epidemic or to believe that it will not affect you. Until it affects you. Until a casual glance at an obituary takes your breath away and all the memories of an artistic, dynamic, charming kid comes swelling up with the tears welling in your eyes and your not sure when the next breath will come. You do not think of Politics, Policies or Police-You think about their Parents, Pals and those Precious Little Kids that will have to grow up without their parent in their lives. You think, I just saw them. You think, “What could I have done?” You think…
    I can do something. Light a candle. Give some time to someone. Give someone a break. Give a smile to someone. Light someones life.

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    There’s plenty of political blame to go around. Cattaraugus County voted for Trump with 64% of the vote. Most of their local and state representatives are of the same ilk.  This is just one more example of citizens voting against their own self interests in the name of blind ideology ~ and Fox News. 

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    I have a sister that I am losing to drugs. I have offered many times to help and she won’t take it. I’m lost on what to do with her. She is in an abusive relationship and she is going to die from the drugs or he is going to kill her. It’s tearing my family apart. I have a brother that is very ill from a long illness that he had no choice over and was told he was eventually going to die. I’m not willing to loose my brother and sister when she has a choice. I wish their was a way they could crack down and help these people with addiction. I have cut all ties with my sister because she won’t admit she has a problem. If anyone has any ideas to help would listen to anyone. Not to mention she has 2 boys that need their mom.

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    How is this a political issue? Do the drugs target a specific political party? I guess this problem started the day Trump was elected and was NEVER an issue when Obama was in office.

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    This article just breaks my heart reading about the town I grew up in throughout the 60’s and 70’s. I always brag about what a great little town it was to grow up in. Unfortunately, Olean
    like anyplace else in America in not immuned to this epidemic.
    I live in Somerset County New Jersey, about an hour in one direction to Philadelphia and an hour in the other direction to New York City. Somerset County is one of the most affluent counties in NJ, and opiod addiction is rampant throughout the area. Perhaps one would think because of the proximity to large cities we are more prone to such a problem, that is not the case, it’s everywhere. Opiond addiction knows no barriers, albeit race, wealth, poverty, family structure, social status etc.
    I have four children ranging in age 19 to 29, each one of them have been to multiple funerals for classmates or friends that have died from an overdose. I saw a personal friend who was injured at work and was given prescription pain killers. He became addicted and eventually went to heroin. He lost his marriage, his home, two beautiful daughters and ultimately his life.
    Every police department in NJ now inventories narcan and most police carry it on duty. Multiple friends of mine in law enforcement have had to administer narcan to addicts in the process of overdosing, in a couple day they are out on the street using again, some getting another dose of narcan that night on route to another overdose. That’s a problem with how we are handling overdose victims and there problem.
    Call it a sickness, a disease, a weakness. Call it what you like, it’s a brutal addiction that needs to be a priority in every town.
    Start, yes start with correcting the abuse of over prescribing painkillers. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies should stop putting profits first. Not that the blame is on their backs, however it must be addressed and regulated.
    My 16 year old daughter was given a prescription for 10 oxicodone when she had her wisdom teeth out. Are you kidding me! What happen to a Tylenol and a bag of ice, that worked fine.
    I hope Olean as well as every other small and large town USA can somehow come together and help turn this horrific epidemic in the other directions.

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    I’m confused. Are you suggesting that Trump cause the Opiod Epidemic? It started while Obama was still President, yet I don’t see anyone blaming him. Why is that?

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    “Not that the blame is on their backs,” No, not all of the blame, but the medical profession IS largley responsible, along with the big pharma’s. Opiods are so addictive that when I recently wound up in the ER after a mishap with an axe, (I lost), I refused any type of pain killer our of fear of becoming addicted to them.

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    Don’t tell me you are trying to blame this on Republicans and President Trump!!! What did Obama do over the last eight years? Grow up and let’s not play politics. Do dead people care if they were a Democrat or a Republican?

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    This is so very sad to here of so many young people losing there lives to these dangerous drugs. We lost our great niece to drugs. We may end up losing her sister if she doesn’t get help. I am also worried for our granddaughter’s mother.

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    Not all issues are Democrat vs Republican, get over it.

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    I so agree, this isn’t a political problem!! this is a problem these “so called addicts” brought on themselves. They never had their arms twisted by anyone, did they? They never had someone else put that heroin in their bodies, did they? NO I DON’T THINK SO! I don’t agree that this is a disease!

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    Well said Patrick. These are very dangerous narcotics that are being handed out like candy in many places. Some pain is to be expected after a procedure and should not be treated as an enemy. It reminds you of adjustments in sitting or lying down that should be made to prevent more damage. In most cases the Tylenol and ice pack as stated should be enough to control the pain to a tolerable level. The society that these young people are now growing up in is one that has lost it’s way. There is no hope, no faith, no ethical standard to strive for, no national pride of a great country established on human freedoms. The family unit which has been under attack for many years and is the bedrock of any civilization is on the verge of extinction causing many of the problems we are now seeing with these addictions. We are losing a whole generation to this problem. I believe the overall solution to turning this around is by turning the above mentioned problems around where there will be faith, hope, and loving trust with ethical standards to strive for.

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    This has been around a lot longer than Obama and before. It is a social problem not political. Like any addiction, until you hit rock bottom and decide to get help no one can do it for you. I don’t care how many memorials, are set up. The only one’s that are helped are the ones left behind or who feel guilty,,, who thought if only I had seen …if only I had done …. We have to realize there is nothing we could have done to help them, they have to want to help. We do need to be made aware that it is rampant and not just in our community. Bring religious education back, or at least the golden rule. Teach our children that there are consequences for their actions. Don’t coddle them like they can do no wrong, Don’t give them medals for losing. Teach them how to win, how to respect themselves and others, how to work , teach them nothing is free. Then maybe we will see a downsizing of drugs.

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    Zeke/Tabatha, is simply a misguided sheep that leads the commonfolk to believe that the transgender movement is staffed by the mentally ill. Naturally, as part of this crusade against accountability, Tab must blame whatever political party she isn’t supporting at the moment. (Republicans currently, as they typically don’t support lifelong able bodied individuals freeloading off the taxpayers. And Tab has no desire to obtain a lucrative desk job with which to support themselves.)

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