Amherst, NY - The grip of the opioid crisis on Western New York communities was emphasized again Sunday by the Erie County Health Department.

Health Department Coordinator Cheryl Moore told a workshop at the North Presbyterian Church in Amherst that overdose deaths steadily rose in recent years to 301 in 2016. That's especially the case with lethal Fentanyl mixed in with heroin and pills.

Moore says it affects all communities and ages with concerns it could get worse as many people still may have painkiller prescriptions. "We don't even know how many people are addicted to opioids because many of them are like 'I'm just taking medicine. What's wrong with you lady?' That's how this disease steals your brain. The other part is I'm not telling anybody...they're gonna think I am nothing bu dirt. The stigma attached to this disease is ridiculous."

More medical professionals are now trained on the risks of simply prescribing opioid painkillers for some of their patients But federal prosecutors in New Jersey also just settled with a pharmaceutical firm paying $7.5 million dollars to settle charges that it paid doctors kickbacks to actually prescribe them.

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