A heartfelt letter from a Tonawanda mother thanking first responders for saving her unconscious, overdosed daughter is generating a lot of response on social media.
The letter is posted on the Town of Tonawanda Police Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TownPolice/photos/pcb.10156947662387754/10156947647022754/?type=3&theater
While it is much appreciated, said Lt. Tom Haynes, it also shows how widespread the opioid epidemic remains in all parts of WNY.
Paramedics are embedded with Town of Tonawanda police to provide faster response for situations such as an overdose.
Crews carry Naloxone, also referred to as Narcan, which can save someone who has overdosed - but too much can make a person very ill.
In addition, breathing becomes a major concern when someone overdoses, explained Town of Tonawanda paramedic Chris St. Peter.
St. Peter said having paramedics on-scene when police arrive allows crews to better monitor the use of Naloxone and an overdosed patient's breathing. That is important because people are overdosing on heroin that is laced with dangerous drugs like Fentanyl.
Lt. Haynes said his department is seeing a decline in overdose deaths but the opioid problem remains "an epidemic."
The Town of Amherst has also seen the toll that opioids are taking on individuals and their families.
"I am seeing everyone from teenagers to people in their 60's and 70's," added Amherst Town Judge Kara Buscaglia.
The judge said there are opioid connections in the many criminal cases that come before her.
Starting January 1, 2019, Amherst will become the first town/village in this area to operate an "Opiate Court."
The Amherst "Opiate Court" will run five (5) days a week - unlike the current "Drug Court" which is only one (1) day per week.
"Opiate Court" will only deal with opioid-related offenses with the goal of getting people into life-saving treatment as soon as possible.
"Upon arraignment, let's put the criminal charges aside for 90 days, get you into treatment, and then deal with the underlying criminal matter. But first and foremost, let's save your life," said Judge Buscaglia.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his report.