New numbers are giving Erie County health officials something to compare their response to the opioid epidemic with other counties.
Earlier this year, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said opioid overdose deaths in the county dropped from 301 in 2016 to 251 in 2017. While the deaths are decreasing here, statistics released this week show that deaths in and around Rochester are skyrocketing.
According to the Monroe County Medical Examiner, 169 people died from an opioid related overdose in 2016. That number increased to 220 in 2017.
“I think we’re doing better in Erie County than some other counties,” said Avi Israel, the president of Save the Michaels of the World.
Israel’s group helps get opioid addicts into treatment centers. He started it when his son Michael committed suicide after dealing with opioid dependency.
“Why is it dropping in Erie County and going up everywhere else?” Israel asked. “It’s a good question to maybe ask the health commissioner.”
“Most places in the United States, including in New York State are seeing increases,” said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein.
Burstein says the Erie County Opioid Task Force deserves a lot of the credit for Erie County’s decreasing numbers. She also noted that so far, numbers in 2018 are trending down.
“We started early on in the game, much earlier than other areas,” Burstein said. “We started to see this problem at the end of 2015, and we immediately took action.”
In Rochester, meanwhile, health officials are working to find their solution.
“It’s a complicated picture,” said Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza. “Treatment for addiction is very different from preventing overdoses.”
“I would like to think that maybe they would want to come down here and see what works here in Erie County, and maybe duplicate that,” Israel said.
The report released by the Monroe County Medical Examiner also included a concerning stat about overdose deaths in Genesee County. It noted that in 2017, there were 19 opioid related overdose deaths there. That’s compared to five in the previous six years combined.