Poloncarz, Health Commissioner Joined By Partners to Issue Emergency Warning on Opiate Crisis

Modified: February 9, 2016 1:00pm

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Heroin Press Conference

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is joined by Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein, U.S. Attorney William Hochul and DEA Resident Agent In Charge John Flickinger at Erie County Medical Center to discuss the opiate crisis in Erie County.

Spike in Opioid Overdose Deaths Within the Past Week Has Raised Concerns With Ongoing Epidemic 

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined today by Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein, United States Attorney for the Western District of New York William J. Hochul Jr., and Drug Enforcement Administration Resident Agent In Charge John Flickinger to issue an emergency warning regarding the opiate crisis in Erie County following the revelation that there have been nine opioid overdose-related deaths over a seven-day period.

“Having been updated with information about a recent spike in opioid overdose deaths within the past week, we felt it was important to address this issue today and come together as a community to issue an emergency warning for what has become a serious health crisis,” said Poloncarz. “The region’s epidemic of opioid abuse is something that cannot be ignored.”

Last month, the County Executive issued an Executive Order to create the Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force, a group comprised of over 100 individuals from local human service agencies, law enforcement, government, and the private sector who are serving on seven different committees dedicated to coordinating a community-wise response to the region’s opioid addiction problem.

“Opioid addiction in Erie County is a public health crisis and based on the latest information we have obtained in the past few days about the uptick in opioid overdose deaths we feel strongly about gathering today and issuing this emergency warning,” said Dr. Burstein. “We have been consistently informing the public about the many dangers associated with using opiate based drugs but to have nine deaths in the past week shows that the information is still not being comprehended by everyone.”

“Despite sounding the alarm regarding the dangers of opiate based drugs for nearly three years, today’s report of nine deaths in seven days means that the message has still not fully penetrated,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “In the past, we have likened such drugs to rat poison, and the use of them as a form of Russian roulette.  Today, let us finally recognize that opiate based drugs are killers, and that those who illegally distribute them are deserving of the most substantial punishment available in law.”

“Heroin traffickers are not chemists, nor is there such a thing as a ‘safe’ batch of heroin,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt. “Our communities need to be aware of the dangers of heroin, especially the practice of mixing heroin and fentanyl which can lead to fatal overdoses. DEA urges communities to increase the awareness of the deadly dangers lurking within heroin glassines.”