County Executive cites growing rates of addiction, need for coordinated response among reasons behind declaration of public health crisis in Erie County
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz signed into effect the 14th executive order of his administration, ordering the establishment of an opioid epidemic task force to coordinate a response to the opioid crisis sweeping across Erie County.
The Erie County medical examiner's office projects 2015 to be a record year for reported opioid-related fatalities, with well over 200 such incidents, while the Erie County Department of Mental Health has identified the need for additional inpatient beds, more community-based treatment services, and other services for individuals suffering from opioid addiction to be provided in a collaborative manner.
To be headed by the Erie County commissioners of health and mental health, the task force will coordinate and include input from community experts in social service agencies, law enforcement, medical fields, mental health and addictions providers, the health insurance industry, and members of victims' families.
"Opioid addiction in Erie County is a growing scourge that encompasses urban, rural and suburban areas, and does not discriminate in who falls into its deadly trap. Many of these individuals become addicted to cheaper, illegal street drugs after taking prescribed medications and do not have access to the inpatient and/or outpatient services they need to fight their addiction," Poloncarz said. "With this executive order, I am declaring this opioid epidemic a public health crisis and creating a task force to bring multiple partners to the table, examining all areas of opioid addiction and coordinating a community-wide response."
Formation of the opioid epidemic task force, which will coordinate the efforts of all member agencies, will begin immediately. It is expected that seven specialized work groups will be formed by the task force to address issues as varied as offering advocacy and supports to the families of addicted individuals to addressing the needs of treatment providers.