Erie County Addiction Hotline called a "failure"

Posted at 6:38 PM, Apr 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-20 18:38:49-04

Erie County is reevaluating its fight against drug addiction and trying to find out if the money it's spending is really making any difference at all.

The Erie County Legislature held a Health and Human Services Committee Meeting Thursday to discuss various programs the county oversees. Members of the county's Opiate Epidemic Task Force were grilled by legislators to see if public money is being used effectively.

Republican legislators put the 24 hour Addiction Hotline under the microscope, wondering if it is worth the more than $300,000 price tag. The hotline currently averages 7 calls each day.

"But at this point it's been a failure," Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo said. "So are we getting value for the money we're spending on that hotline?"

Crisis Services runs the hotline and was invited to the meeting, but did not attend.

Anne Constantino is the president of Horizon Health Services and in her view, the hotline and other efforts need more time to prove their worth.

"We have to throw everything at it," she said. "We have to throw money at it. Throw people, expertise at it. We have to throw criminal justice at it. Everything. We don't have the answer and we don't know what's going to turn this, but we can't stop trying."

Lynne Dixon chairs the Health and Human Services Committee.

"I think we have to constantly be asking ourselves, what are we doing right?" she asked. "What are we doing wrong? What can we tweak? What can we do better? I think we always have to analyze it so we can constantly look at perhaps new ways of addressing the issue."

Legislators also discussed a proposal from Patrick Burke to spend an additional $1,000,000 to fight the drug epidemic. It's unclear if and when they may move forward with the funding.