Solving big mental health concerns with a little pink sticker

Local News

NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB)–In 15 months, the Covid pandemic has affected so many people in so many ways including feelings of hopelessness. It gets more complicated when you add powerful medications to the mix.

“That we noticed these trends of individuals who may be taking them either for substance use because of addictions concerns, or potentially to harm themselves with being overwhelmed with life, and trying to end them.”

Myrla Doxey is Deputy Director of Niagara County’s Department of Mental Health and a member of the county’s Opioid Task Force. They have devised a tool for helping folks in the throes of desperation know there is help. Selected pharmacies are attaching these pink stickers with a simple message to prescription bottles. Crisis Services is available 24 hours every day.

“Medications that either carry a high risk for abuse or addiction, that kind of thing, then we put the sticker on that,” said Chris Mirowski, of Wurlitzer Family Pharmacy.

The Wurlitzer Family Pharmacy in North Tonawanda is one of 10 pharmacies in Niagara County that are participating in the Pharmacy Label Program. Doxey says a call to Crisis Services gets triaged to help the caller get the most appropriate help available.

“There is a lot of stress, a lot of social pressures, a lot of financial pressures. The world changed and individuals deal with that very differently.”

Doxey says a call to the hotline can be for reasons other than addiction or physical well-being, loss of a job, family issues, they can help there, too. Pharmacist Chris Mirowski says, he just wants to make sure his customers are going to be okay.

“Listen, if it helps at least one person, it is worth it. We could put a thousand stickers on there, but if one person reads it and gets some help with it, great.”

County officials anticipate pharmacists are going to handle about 360-thousand pink stickers through Project Awareness over the next year and they are hoping this is just the start, as other pharmacies and other counties take notice.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.

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