ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. -- There are alarming new numbers on the deadly opiate epidemic in Erie County.
County health department data suggests the overdose death toll is growing faster.
After fatal overdose numbers doubled in 2015, the trend slowed in 2016. But not this year.
So far this year, there have been 80 confirmed overdose deaths with another 132 suspected. That's 212 to date, counting both the confirmed and suspected.
If this rate continues for the rest of the year, Erie County could see around 400 fatal overdoses in 2017.
"We need to get our arms around it, because it could get even worse," Senator Chris Jacobs said Tuesday.
Wednesday morning at the Erie Community College City Campus, Jacobs co-chairs the second in a series of three public hearings across the state, hoping to find new solutions.
Among the challenges, Naloxone, or Narcan, the antidote for opiate overdoses. While it is a life-saver, Anne Constantino, President and CEO of Horizon Health in Buffalo, says: "They're in withdrawal, as soon as that Narcan takes hold...they're very ill."
And immediately looking for their next fix.
Jacob's idea: placing counselors in emergency rooms offering drug treatment options.
"To be able to be there, when somebody is stabilized after an overdose, and talk to them and encourage them to go on a treatment path."
Jacobs notes while multiple agencies and groups have cooperated in the fight against the opiate epidemic, it's clear that more money will be needed in the years to come.
"There's a case that could be made that there needs to be a lot more resources because of how profoundly large this is… and the scale and scope of it," Jacobs said.
And Constantino, the head of Horizon Health, the largest drug treatment provider in Western New York, says we should prepare for a long battle when it comes to the opiate epidemic.
When asked how long, Constantino said years, and then repeated her answer: "Years."
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