Erie County officials are attacking the opioid crisis here in Western New York with a new two million dollar federal grant announced Monday morning. The multimillion dollar initiative is underway to combat the drug problem with a focus on families.
The Erie County Health Department has reported 80 confirmed deaths and another 132 suspected deaths so far in 2017. For every death, a family is torn apart. Erie County Family Court Judge, Margaret Szczur, experiences these devastating effects that opioid abuse has on families every day.
"It's very difficult when you're telling people in court you have to change this and do this then you send them back to the family with all the things brought on the addiction to begin with and not adequately addressing it," Judge Szczur said. "We've tried and worked and this grant will give us the opportunity to do that even better."
Judge Szczur said of the 70 families that have entered come through her courtroom over the past four months, 95 percent have been affected by the opioid epidemic. That is why she, Erie County officials, and Congressman Brian Higgins are taking the fight against the crisis to the next level in Western New York.
The five year federal grant totaling at $2,125,000 for the Erie County Family Treatment Drug Court Enhancement Initiative will power treatment services aimed at breaking the cycle of addiction and building stronger families.
Michael Ranney, Erie County Mental Health Commissioner, put an emphasis on how the grant will bring services to family life because he says the epidemic is a family issue. "This can be a vicious cycle of a child following a parent who follows the same type of things they saw with their parent," he said.
We see a lot of broken families as a result of this epidemic and we want to give these families an opportunity to survive and thrive," Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted the Erie County Family Court $425,000 per year from 2017 to 2022. The University at Buffalo alongside Best Self Behavioral Health has partnered with the Erie County Family Court to bring new services into the program. Some of the services will include mental health counseling, prevention and educational services, as well as relapse prevention.