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As opioid epidemic worsens, what WNY counties are doing to reverse the trend

Fentanyl Opioids CNN
Posted at 1:15 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 06:42:36-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The numbers keep growing. Overdose deaths are worse in 2021 than they were in 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic is playing a large role.

“This is heartbreaking what we’re seeing out here today. We’re seeing so many people that we’re losing," said Cheryll Moore, Director of Erie County's Opiate Task Force.

Here's the data for 2021:

  • 100,000 overdose deaths in the U.S.
  • 165 confirmed and 120 pending overdose death cases in Erie County
    • 246 in 2020
  • 91 suspected overdose deaths in Niagara County
    • 59 in 2020
  • 476 suspected non-fatal overdoses in Niagara County
    • 466 in 2020

"It’s a disease, not much different than diabetes," said Moore.

But who are these people?

In the past 5-6 years, the average overdose death was a 38 year old.

"The person we’re losing is much older...last year it went up to a 42 year old," said Moore.

What's leading to these deaths?

Moore says it’s not heroin or pain killers killing people.

“The biggest thing affecting our population here is fentanyl," said Moore.

It’s not what you get in a prescription, it's illegal and a lot of times people don't know what they're buying. Niagara county health officials tell me they’re seeing the same thing.

More than 100 deaths in 2020 were caused by a mixture of fentanyl and cocaine in Erie County.

"This is different, much different, this is someone who was expecting a stimulant, they had no idea they were getting an opioid," said Moore.

Moore says the pandemic continues to worsen the numbers of overdose deaths, with many turning to drugs to deal with the isolation.

What are Niagara and Erie Counties doing to fix this?
Both counties have task forces working to reverse the trend.

Erie county has a "Text 4 Narcan" program that sends Narcan directly to you in the mail. They also have training sessions teaching you how to use it to save lives.

"We continue efforts to raise awareness that help is available and encourage our community members to be trained in recognizing an opioid overdose, how to respond and be equipped with Narcan," said Myrla C. Gibbons Doxey, MA LMFT, Deputy Director Niagara County Dept. of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services.

For those using—you can call someone to be with you over the phone so you never have to do it alone at 1-800-484-3731.

And the program NY matters can get anyone care quickly.

"We will get you an appointment at a long term care provider of your choice within two weeks," said Moore.

Moore says this is something everyone should be thinking about to protect members of our community.

"[This] needs to be in our conversation every single day we want people to be safe and healthy and we know that no one woke up today and said I think I'll be a drug addict," said Moore.

Click here for a list of local Narcan trainings coming up.