Opioid overdose deaths increase for fourth straight year

BUFFALO, N.Y . (WIVB) — It’s January 10th and barely noon yet the Erie County Medical Examiner has had eight people into the morgue who are suspected to have died from opioid overdoses.

The Health Commissioner says they’re trying to put an end to that upward trend. They’re putting many new programs in place this year after receiving several grants. One grant is targeting women who are addicted to opioids. Another will cover counselors who will be present with first responders who are arriving to revive overdose victims with nolaxone several times a day.

“We’re ahead of the curve,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, the Erie County Health Commissioner. “We’re trailblazing many of these innovative programs.”

Even with programs and county-wide support in place — like launching the first opioid court — people are still not receiving the help they need and they’re overdosing, and dying.

“People still consider it bad behavior,” said the health commissioner. “It’s stigmatized a lot. And people struggling feel ashamed. Everyone is ramping up, trying to get on the same page to work together.”

Together, to try to change the trend. Some services are working, it seems. From 2016 to 2017, the number of deaths linked to opioids increased by the smallest margin for the first time since the start of the epidemic. The county saw around a 5% increase. Still, there are 193 confirmed deaths and 123 pending – totaling 316 – for 2017; up from 301 people who died in 2016.

“So many people in our community are impacted by this.”

With even more programs beginning, the health commissioner is hopeful more people will seek the services necessary to help them recover.

“We really want to work all together, as a community, to beat this issue.”

Click here to access the resources available in the county to help those struggling with addiction.

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