Formed by executive order, inaugural meeting creates committee structure
The Erie County opiate epidemic task force, created by Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz through an executive order last month, met today for the first time to organize participants into committees focused on addressing the county's epidemic of opioid abuse. Approximately 110 individuals from local human service agencies, law enforcement, government and the private community joined together to begin the work of formulating a community-wide response to the issue.
The task force's mission is to provide a framework for organizations and individuals from across the opiate overdose continuum to collaborate, develop and share best practices and provide for timely sharing of information.
"Convening this task force is the first step towards developing a comprehensive response to the opioid addiction problem that is blanketing our community," said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. "We are bringing together multiple partners with wide-ranging perspectives and expertise in the issue to articulate a plan that will attack addiction on several fronts, using the resources we have here in a coordinated way with actionable goals. The work we are beginning today marks a significant shift in the way opioid addiction is addressed in Erie County."
The task force will be composed of seven committees, which will meet regularly and report back to the group. The seven committees (in no particular order) are: provider education and policy reform, led by Burstein; community education, led by Barbara Burns of the U.S. attorney general's office, western region of New York; families and consumer support and advocacy, led by Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke (7th District); police-assisted addiction and recovery initiative ("PAARI"), led by Dan Rinaldo of NYNJ-HIDTA; treatment providers, led by Erie County Commissioner of Mental Health Michael Ranney; hospitals/ER ROI project, led by Dr. Josh Lynch of Kaleida Health; and naloxone access, led by Cheryll Moore of the Erie County Department of Health.
Ranney said, "For too long, individuals and agencies have grappled with addiction on their own and have been strained by an issue that's too big for them to handle by themselves. At the same time, there are numerous concerned individuals and agencies who want to help combat the problem, but have been constrained by a lack of information or resources. The task force combines best practices, public and private input, health knowledge, personal experiences, treatments and supports, and many other innovative practices designed to meet the addiction issue across municipalities and jurisdictions."