Health officials in Erie County are looking to tackle the growing heroin epidemic. The county reports 205 people died from a drug overdose between January and October 2015. That’s compared to 129 people in 2014.
Thursday, the Health and Human Services Committee hosted a public discussion identifying ways to combat the epidemic. Officials said part of the solution is education. They want more information made available to identify signs, symptoms, and treatment for those addicted to drugs. They also want to form stronger partnerships amongst advocacy groups.
Debra Smith, who attended the forum, knows firsthand the deadly toll addiction can take. Her son, Nathaniel, died last September of a drug overdose. He was 26-years-old. She said more needs to be done to change the stigma surrounding drug addiction.
“People are developing an understanding that this is not an isolated incident and that one person cannot do this by themselves. One person can't fight this epidemic. It's an epidemic that has a strangle hold on this community. “We're behind the eight ball on this,” said Erie County Legislator, Lynne Dixon. “As a community, we didn't look at it as a problem for the longest time. But, it's been growing in recent years. And, it's really time we tackle it.”
The committee now plans to review concerns brought to its attention during the forum. That includes what's covered by insurance for those seeking treatment and the number of beds available at local rehab facilities.
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