Poloncarz, Burstein, Ranney Provide Updated Statistics On Opioid Fatalities, Discuss Impact The Epidemic Is Having On Erie County

Modified: June 4, 2018 12:07pm

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Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz today joined county Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein and Mental Health Commissioner Michael Ranney to review the latest county data on the opioid epidemic and fatalities associated with its use, noting that the Erie County Medical Examiner’s office has confirmed 251 opioid overdose fatalities for 2017. In 2016, 301 individuals died of an opioid overdose in Erie County, while in 2015, 256 individuals died of an opioid overdose in Erie County.

“It is encouraging to see that the numbers of opioid fatalities in 2017 are lower than those in 2016 and in 2015. While even one fatality from opioids is one too many, this shows that our ongoing efforts to fight the opioid epidemic in Erie County are working and that we are heading in the right direction,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Unfortunately the epidemic is still rising in other parts of New York and in states located throughout the country, so it is important to stay focused locally and continue to work with our community partners and our residents on addressing this public health issue. Everyone has an important role to play in keeping ourselves and our community as safe and as healthy as possible.” 

In their most recent report on opioid overdoses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) noted that overdose fatality rates in New York State increased 7 percent from October 2016 to October 2017, while in New York City opioid fatalities increased by 12 percent over the same time period. Similar results from the same time period were seen around the northeastern portion of the United States in the period, with New Jersey reporting a 43 percent increase in overdose fatalities, Pennsylvania reporting a 33 percent increase in overdose fatalities and Ohio showing a 26 percent increase in overdose fatalities.

“The latest data provides us with further evidence of the truly destructive nature of opioids but at the same time the obvious need for a community-wide response to this deadly epidemic. In Erie County we have chosen to confront the issue directly and did so early on, taking crucial steps to partner with community stakeholders to openly address the opioid epidemic by recognizing the powerful impact it has had on so many of our residents and collaborating with partners to face reality and work together towards a shared goal,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. “While we are proud of what we have accomplished so far, we recognize that plenty more work remains to be done.”

The latest Erie County data show that among the 2017 confirmed opioid overdose deaths, 84 percent were white and 73 percent were male. Although 26 percent of Erie County’s population is between 20 years of age and 39 years of age, this age group accounted for 55 percent of the opioid related fatalities.

It is also interesting to note that opioid overdose death victims resided throughout Erie County: 43 percent of the opioid fatalities in 2017 lived in the suburbs; 43 percent lived in the City of Buffalo; and 10 percent lived in rural areas. In addition, 78 percent of the Erie County opioid-related fatalities involved fentanyl, and 28 percent involved heroin.

County officials also point to the success of the Erie County Addiction Hotline (831-7007) as helping to make a difference in the lives of local residents who have become addicted to an opioid-based substance. Since its implementation in August 2016, a total of 4,452 phone calls have been received, including over 700 calls already received in 2018.

“We have helped to reduce previous delays in receiving treatment thanks to the hotline,” said Mental Health Commissioner Michael Ranney. “The trained counselors have been able to quickly connect those individuals and their family members with contact information for treatment facilities.”

For more information:

On the Erie County Department of Health, visit http://www2.erie.gov/health/