NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB)- Deadly heroin and other opiate overdoses are on track to double from last year. Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein says 11 people are dying from an overdose each week, which means as many as 570 people could die this year.
“Counseling in of itself is not enough,” said Burstein. “This is a physiological disease so people need medication to treat this disease like other physiologic diseases. We don’t have enough methadone clinics.”
She told News 4 there are only three in Erie County. They are run by Catholic Health, Community Action Organization and Hispanics United. All of the clinics are located within the Buffalo city limits.
“I hear when they want to expand outside the city limits or another place inside the city, the community has pushed them away, saying ‘oh yeah, we do need more treatment but not in my neighborhood’.”
It’s the same response Northpointe Council is receiving as it tries to expand on 6th Street. The government regulates how many people can be served based on the size of each facility. Northpointe can only currently help up to 135 people but there are still about 150 on its waiting list.
Program Director for the methadone program, MaryAnn Campanella, said people who try the treatment have usually already experienced three failed attempts at getting clean.
“Somebody who’s been using IV heroin, heroin from the street, a prescribed medication that seems to be our biggest population right now,” said Campanella.
She told us people have to take the liquid dose in front of a registered nurse and talk to the nurse and a security guard afterwards to prove the dose has been swallowed.
Methadone is regulated by a number of state and federal agencies including OASAS, DEA and the Department of Health.
The federal government says after three months, if a person has stayed clean, they can start taking a dose home.
“Clean means clean from all substances,” said Campanella. “They can’t have one dirty toxicology screen of anything and they have to have made all of their individual sessions, their groups.”
She said they start with one take home dose. It comes in a bottle that has a drug label and the patient has to bring the bottle back to the facility once it’s finished. The patient also has to keep it in a locked box.
Campanella said when people come to them, they are desperate to get clean. She told us people have even died on the waiting list and this really is a lifesaving drug.
“This is their last resort, they come in they are usually at the end of trying,” said Campanella. “It’s really heartbreaking.”