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Erie County debuts Overdose Prevention Task Force at quarterly meeting

Mon, May 6th 2024 03:00 pm

New name and renewed focus 

√ Cocaine emerges as a deadly substance for people who use drugs

Submitted by the Erie County Department of Health

Local health leaders introduced the new name and structure of Erie County’s Overdose Prevention Task Force at its quarterly meeting on Monday, May 6.

“Overdose deaths have devastated too many families in our community, and nothing changes without commitment and action,” County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. “The new name of the task force signals their commitment to action and a renewed focus on preventing overdoses and saving lives. I am proud to see how this task force continues to adapt and grow in response to the opioid epidemic.”

Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said, “With feedback from participants, we reorganized task force workgroups under five new sections: first responders, education/advocacy/support, health care providers, harm reduction and treatment providers. The name change broadens the scope of our work, extending into prevention and response for people who use cocaine and other stimulants, in addition to opiates.”

•Overdose deaths and opioid-related overdose deaths have increased each year since 2019, with 435 total overdoses and 366 opioid-related overdose deaths reported in 2023; 165 overdose deaths and 151 opioid-related overdose deaths have been reported in 2024 through April 30.

•There have been substantial increases since 2018 in overdose death victims who are categorized as Black/African American, and among those ages 60 years and older.

•Overdoses among Black persons doubled from 2018 (13% of total) to 2021 (25% of total), and continue to increase each year (32% in 2023).

•Overdoses among persons over age 60 years almost double from 2022 (13%) to 2023 (24%), and remain high in 2024 data (21%).

•Overdoses among persons ages 20-29 years remain low after years of decline, decreasing from 24% in 2018 to 8% in 2023.

•A majority of people tend to use substances in their own home, and 64% of fatal overdose victims in 2023 died at their home address.

•In 2023, the ZIP codes with the highest number of fatal overdose deaths were: Buffalo-east side (14211); Buffalo-upper east side (14215); Buffalo-Grant Ferry (14213); Buffalo-Broadway (14212); Black Rock (14207)

•71% of overdose deaths involved cocaine in 2023; compared to 2020 when overdose deaths involving cocaine were 48%.

•Scene investigators are noting more fatal cases where drugs are snorted or smoked, as opposed to being injected.

•In terms of non-fatal overdoses, they are concentrated in Black Rock (14207) and near Allentown (14201), with more activity in Grant Ferry (14213) after a period of fewer incidents, and West Seneca (14224) emerging as an area of concern.

Tuesday, May 7, is National Fentanyl Awareness Day. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is commonly found in cocaine and other illicit stimulant drugs. Erie County data from 2023 and previous years show trends in overdoses and overdose deaths that increase during summer’s warmer weather.

“Cocaine has emerged as a deadly substance, even without fentanyl,” Burstein said. “Our harm reduction team takes those factors into account for their outreach activities, peer navigation work and Narcan trainings.”

The OPTF meeting presentations will be available online this week.

The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) offers harm reduction supplies and peer support – call 716-858-7695. Other ways to reduce the risk of harm from drug use:

√ Carry Narcan, and know how and when to use it. Text 716-225-5473 to have Narcan and fentanyl test strips mailed to you for free.

√ Never use alone. Have Narcan and a friend with you who is not using drugs, or contact a service like Never Use Alone (neverusealone.com).

√ Test your drugs for fentanyl even if you think it is cocaine or another substance that is not an opioid. Free test strips available from the Erie County Department of Health. Call 716-858-7695.

√ Seek support. ECDOH has peer navigators and a family coordinator; call 716-858-7695. The Buffalo and Erie County addictions hotline is available 24/7 with referrals for individuals and their families. Call 716-831-7007.

√ Seek treatment. Local hospital emergency departments can connect patients to immediate medication assisted treatment. Ask for MATTERS Network.

For more:

√ Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH), Overdose Prevention Task Force, https://www2.erie.gov/health/index.php?q=opiate-epidemic-task-force.

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