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'Isolation for her was a death sentence,' overdose deaths worsen in WNY

Posted at 7:17 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 19:27:29-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Drug addiction is having a devastating toll on WNY during COVID-19. One Buffalo family is hoping their heartbreak can inspire change.

"She needed to be with people. She knew that isolation for her was a death sentence. And isolation truly was her death sentence and so last monday she overdosed and died," said Sandra Robinson, speaking of her late daughter.

Sarah Gangell was 25 years old. Her battle with addiction began at 13.

"For 10 years she struggled. She had tried heroin. Somebody injected her and her words were, there's never been a greater love in my life than that moment," said Robinson.

She had just finished treatment in Florida. Her parents say she was improving, she just started working when COVID-19 hit.

"And then they made everyone work from home. And then there were no meetings. Freedom is a killer. Am I glad she's dead? no. Am I glad she's free? Yes," said Robinson.

Sarah's story is just one of many from WNY.

"These kinds of situations are happening on a daily basis...I attribute that to, obviously isolation," said Avi Israel, President of Save the Michaels of the World Inc., a local facility for those struggling with addiction.

Erie County recently notified Israel that funding will be cut by 31%.

"That's going to add on to the death and suicide that's going on in our community," said Israel.

So he's calling on the federal government to step up and provide funding to New York State to fight addiction.

"We need the help. If we don't get the help, we're going to have to probably shut the doors down," said Israel.

If you're struggling with addiction, there is help out there now.

Save the Michaels: 716-984-8375
Buffalo NA helpline: 716-878-2316
Erie County Addiction helpline: 716-831-7007
Niagara County Crisis Services: 716-285-3515
Chautauqua County Crisis Line: 1-800-724-0461
Cattaraugus County Addiction Helpline: 1-866-851-5033
Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA): 585-815-1800
Wyoming County Crisis Line: (585) 283-5200