Erie County fatal overdoses down since Opioid Epidemic Task Force’s creation

Local News

Erie County leaders provided updates on the addiction crisis on the third anniversary of the formation of the Erie County Opioid Epidemic Task Force.

County leaders said they’ve seen too many people die from overdoses. Since the program began, they said that number has gone down significantly. 

The task force was created in February 2016 after opioid-related deaths skyrocketed nationwide. 

Since that time, county officials have expanded treatment access to methadone clinics, created an opioid intervention court, and made overdose-reversal drugs, like naloxone, widely available. 

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said her team has made headway on decreasing opioid-related overdose deaths. 

In 2016, there were 301 opioid-related deaths in Erie County. 

Two years later, Dr. Burstein said there were just under 200 fatal overdoses. 

Now, the Department of Health is trying to cut the epidemic at its source. 

They are working with local hospitals on the goal of reducing the number of pain medications being prescribed. 

“Our communities work together to change prescribing practices and we’re educating the community that the risks of prescribing pain narcotic medication is much greater than the benefits and ibuprofen or tylenol by itself can just as or more effective,” Burstein said. 

There have been many changes since the country started tackling this epidemic. 

Fentanyl and related drugs are now the leading killer in the opioid crisis in Erie County. 

Leaders said New York State needs to update its controlled-substance database to keep up with these new fentanyl-infused drugs that they can easily prosecute people who are found with it on the street. 

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