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5 fatal overdoses in Erie County in the first weekend of 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Five people died of suspected opioid-related overdoses during the first weekend of 2019 in Erie County, according to health officials. 

Four of the deaths occurred in Buffalo; Buffalo police are currently investigating. 

The fatalities occurred between Friday and Sunday.

Erie County's Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein points to the fact that overall, opioid-related overdose deaths are declining in our area. 

"We have bent the curb and we continue to decline in opioid related overdose deaths," said Erie County's Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. 

Since 2016, Erie County has seen a steady decline in fatal overdoses. There were 301 in 2016, 251 in 2017, and in 2018 there were 130 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths, with 75 cases pending final toxicology results. 

"Now apparently Fentanyl is starting to show up in some other narcotics. So even though you think that you're just purchasing cocaine or you've been a longtime cocaine user, there is a possibility... again, these are not pharmaceutical grade drugs," said Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo.

It's unclear if these deaths are associated with the same batch of drugs, or where police think they came from. 

"We did see a blip. The good news is we expect that this is just one blip," Burstein told News 4. 

First responders are reminding everyone, not just drug users, of the importance of Narcan; medicine that when taken in time, can reverse the effects of an overdose. 

Burstein, who first advocates for professional addiction treatment with either Suboxone or Methadone, said those who are going to use street-obtained drugs should consider the buddy system. 

"If  they're with somebody who knows there is Narcan available, if they take too much or they take something they didn't realize they were taking, there will be somebody there available to give them their Narcan and then call 911 for additional help."

Click here for details on Narcan and free Narcan training courses offered through the County.

The names to the overdose victims have not been released yet. 

The investigation is ongoing. 


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