Officials look to boost 'Angel Program'

Participation Is Low In "Angel Program"

CHEEKTOWAGA, NY - Erie County has released new data on how many people are suspected to have died from a drug overdose so far this year.

And not just that, expectation for a key program that the county rolled out last year, has been struggling.
 
Here are the numbers from Erie County breaking down fatal overdoses, as a result of drugs like fentanyl and heroin:  
 
In 2014, 127 deaths -- the following year 256 deaths. And last year, 247 confirmed cases -- with 77 pending because toxicology tests are still being done. If all those pending cases are confirmed -- the total would be 324 deaths in 2016. Already this year, there are 50 suspected overdose deaths.
 
REPORTER: The crisis is still very real, what steps is this county taking to address this crisis that is not being done right now?
 
"We're pretty much doing everything that's recommended," said Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz.
 
Poloncarz cites a report released last year from the National Association of Counties and the National League of Cities. Members of the Erie County task force say more could be done with existing programs like -- the REAP program, also known as "the angel program."
 
"We just haven't seen as many people take advantage of the program as we hoped," Poloncarz said.
 
It allows addicts to turn their drugs into 13 local police stations -- such as Buffalo and Niagara Falls -- the person wouldn't be charged -- and instead, police would work to find that person a treatment facility. Then an angel would be called -- a volunteer who would arrive at the police station to comfort the addict.
 
The program has been in place for six months, and so far, county officials expected between 50 and 100 people would've used the angel program. But, so far only ten have. The program has been successful in other parts of the country, like in Gloucester, Massachusetts where the program originated from.
 
REPORTER: Why does it work somewhere else and it doesn't work here? Or hasn't worked as well as hoped?
 
"Part of the problem is we didn't advertise the program correctly," said Daniel Rinaldo, a drug intelligence officer with HIDTA.
 
He says ads were put in the Buffalo News and on local TV stations and that the county will now look to get state funds to put billboards on the 33 and the 290.
 
Rinaldo says there's always going to be the challenge of getting addicts to actually turn their supply into police. Apart from that, experts say more money and treatment facilities are always needed in this fight.

 

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