For the first time in Erie County history, a public health crisis has been declared over drugs.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz signed an executive order Tuesday declaring a public health crisis and ordering the establishment of an Opioid Epidemic Task Force.
Opioids include prescription pain relievers like oxycodone or hydrocodone, as well as heroin. 7 Eyewitness News has been following the crisis for months, telling individual stories of addiction, including one mother who wants you to know her son died in a porta-potty; learning that it's led to an increase in prostitution; how it's infiltrated ever sector of society, including the suburbs; and how the use of Narcan has extended beyond first responders to the general public in an attempt to save those who overdose.
Now 479 CVS pharmacies across the state will be offering the "resurrection" drug without a prescription.
“Opioid addiction in Erie County is a growing scourge that encompasses urban, rural, and suburban areas and does not discriminate in who falls into its deadly trap. Many of these individuals become addicted to cheaper, illegal street drugs after taking prescribed medications and do not have access to the inpatient and/or out-patient services they need to fight their addiction,” said Poloncarz.
The Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office is projecting 2015 to be a record year for reported opioid-related fatalities, with more than 200 deaths.
At the same time, the Erie County Department of Mental Health is calling for additional inpatient beds, more community-based treatment services and other services for those suffering from opioid addiction.
The Opioid Epidemic Task Force will be headed by the Erie County Commissioners of Health and Mental Health and they will be seeking input from community experts in social service agencies, law enforcement, medical fields, mental health and addictions providers, the health insurance industry, and members of victims’ families.
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