The Erie County Department of Health says there have been 150 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths this year with another 100 suspected but still waiting for toxicology reports. With data still coming in, it appears that Erie County could top 400 deaths by the end of the year.
As a result of the opioid crisis, Erie County created an Addictions Hotline (716-831-7007) to help addicts and their families find treatment and support. A special program was also started where addicts could go to a police station to seek treatment without fear of arrest (REAP). But how well are the programs working?
According to well-known local addiction activist Avi Israel, who pushed for creation of the hotline, it is a good first step but the programs need be "tweaked" to make them more effective.
-More money is needed from Erie County to hire additional counselors for the hotline so they can research open beds for addiction treatment across New York State.
-The hotline needs to be advertised more on billboards and bus shelters.
-Hotline counselors need to make follow-up calls with families and addicts.
Avi Israel said he would also like to see hours expanded for police departments that can assess an addict and connect them to treatment options. Local police departments that are part of the Rapid Evaluation for Appropriate Placement (REAP) program only do so during the hours of 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday thru Friday.
7 Eyewitness News reporter Ed Reilly talked with Avi Israel and fellow addiction activist Gloria Sanchez, from IPE Hall Patrol Ministries, about the situation. Watch Ed's report to hear more.
County officials say the Addiction Hotline has been very successful having received calls from 639 people just since August.
Crisis Services operates the hotline and according to Erie County Commissioner of Mental Health Michael Ranney, a process is now underway to hire another full-time staffer for the hotline.
Ranney said the programs are a "work in progress" with efforts taking place to streamline the process of getting treatment, especially those needing higher levels of care like detox.
The commissioner said new plans are coming to promote the hotline through radio spots and special flyers that will be placed in customers' bags at some local drug stores.
Funding for the Addictions Hotline was only approved for one year by the Erie County Legislature.
The legislature's Health and Human Services Committee is waiting to hear a report from the county about how effective the hotline has been before it makes recommendations for future funding.
That report is expected to be given by Commissioner Ranney in 4 to 6 weeks time.
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