Hochul: More opioid deaths than homicides in '15

Posted at 11:22 PM, Mar 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-04 13:44:30-05

In 2015, U.S. Attorney William Hochul says there were more overdose deaths because of heroin and opioids than homicides in the Western District of New York.

That was just one of many statistics brought up Thursday night at a public forum on prescription pain pill and heroin abuse, held at North Park Theater.

Jessica Emke is a recovering prescription pill addict who attended the meeting, for education and awareness.

"I try to advocate for the people who do suffer from addiction," said Emke. "A lot of people look down on people who suffer from addiction and it's not like I expected this to happen to me. I hope we get more awareness out of it."

Emke was just one of many with a story to tell about the growing epidemic sweeping our area.

"Addiction does not discriminate, and it is frustrating that sometimes people are not getting the help that they deserve and so desperately need."

Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein says the demand is far greater than treatment facilities and help available here in Western New York.

"The demand and the need we have for medication assisted treatment for addiction far outweighs the suppliers we have in our community," Burstein said. "There is a backlog, and we are working to develop and create solutions for more spots, more providers." 

During the forum, the community learned more about the addiction. Officials say while a long-term solution may take time, there are things people can do immediately to help. It was recommended that everyone go through their medicine cabinet and get rid of all unused and old prescription pills. There are drop boxes at most police stations. It was also recommended by the U.S. Attorney that everyone learn to use and carry the life saving drug, Narcan.