Experts testify about local drug epidemic

Senate Opioid Task Force Meets In Buffalo

BUFFALO, NY - Those on the front lines of the state's fight against the opioid epidemic testified Wednesday, before the Senate Opioid Task Force.

The task force met in Buffalo as it works on ways to ease the deadly crisis.

Lawmakers heard emotional testimony from people affected by the drug epidemic, like Debra Smith, whose son Nathaniel died from an overdose. 

"Gentlemen, you have a grieving community in front of you — I'm not the only one," Smith said.

And from Brittany Turner, a recovering addict.
 
"We can win this war against a drug that is never lost," she said.
 
But what does victory look like? That's the question facing lawmakers.
 
Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein wants more methadone clinics in the suburbs, saying most in the county are in Buffalo. Anne Constantino, the president and CEO of Horizon Health, says there needs to be more funding for long-term treatment.
 
And, addiction specialists are concerned about what is happening in hospital emergency rooms.
 
"I haven't heard a lot of referrals coming from the emergency rooms, where do they go?" asked Robert Sands of Renaissance Addiction Services. 
 
"The referral depends on the patient, and almost every E.D. (emergency department) has some system set up to refer these patients to an appropriate next provider," said Dr. Rob McCormack, chair of UBMD Emergency Medicine. 
 
But, there seems to be a problem.
 
"I've received calls of somebody saying my son just got discharged.  He's asking for help; he's asking to get treated and they're just saying, 'your medically stabilized we can't help you here anymore,'" said Sen. Chris Jacobs. 
 
Lawmakers say that's not how the system should work. 

"An emergency room has to discharge them with a whole array of information, the policy is there, we did that last year," said George A. Amedore, Jr., the co-chair of the Senate's Heroin-Opioid Task Force.

Lawmakers say that oversight may require the state's office of alcoholism and substance abuse services to make sure discharge plans are being followed. And, that this could be a recommendation that the task force issues in a future report on the drug epidemic.  

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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