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April 2016 Column - Urgent Issues Before Us


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

We’ve all read the stories in the paper of the countless individuals suffering from the ongoing opioid epidemic. There has been a lot of talk of families being ripped apart by this tragedy, too often we hear talk but see little action.

Legislator Ted Morton joined Senator Patrick M. Gallivan, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard, Holland Central School Superintendent Cathy Fabiatos and Alden School Superintendent Adam Stoltman to announce continued funding for school resource officers (SRO) in several local districts. The SRO program provides a uniformed officer in schools as a way to promote student safety, conflict resolution and anti-bullying initiatives.


At a Legislative session held on September 21, 2017, Legislator Ted Morton honored Lancaster resident, Dick Young as the September 2017 Citizen of the month.


Today, in response to the County Executive’s offer to work with Legislator Morton to develop a compromise Made in America Act, Legislator Ted Morton wrote to him to begin the process.


Legislator Ted Morton first introduced the Made in America Act in support of local manufacturers and local workers in Erie County. After passing the Legislature by a vote of 9-1, the County Executive vetoed the law after instructing the County Attorney to draft a legal opinion.


As snow continues to surprise us by falling here in early April, it’s at least nice to know that spring is soon to arrive in full bloom, with it a couple of urgent issues have come before the Legislature.

About two weeks ago we received startling news that the county’s 911 system failed for several hours. Fortunately this occurred during a normally quiet part of the day. The initial news we’ve learned is that a number of critical backup systems failed after a cooling system overheated. In addition to the equipment failure, our system failed to transfer 911 calls to several reliever dispatch centers resulting in a collapse of the system. This is a very frightening situation where we’ve learned that during the time period when it was down, 22 calls went unanswered. Last week the Legislature held a committee meeting to investigate what went wrong and how we can work together with the County Executive to ensure that this does not happen again.

Unfortunately many critical questions remain unanswered and we have yet to see a corrective plan to protect the system from failing again. We have asked the County DPW, Emergency Services, and Verizon, who is the contractor for the system, to follow up with the Legislature’s Public Safety committee in early May to provide further clarification and a plan to protect the public.

In addition to our county’s security matters, we are battling with another pressing issue: the drug epidemic.

A few months ago I discussed the opioid crisis occurring in our communities and I held a roundtable discussion with many community partners to discuss how we can work together to combat the epidemic. I wanted to provide an update on where things currently stand. You may have heard in the news that last week, the Legislature held a committee meeting to discuss the County Executive’s proposal to hire additional employees and establish a hotline for users, friends, family, or anyone with concerns to call. We did not approve the measure at the meeting due to concerns my colleagues and I have over the fact that the funding for this program only lasts until the end of the year and does not provide a long term solution. We are looking to improve on legislation so that we have the best possible plan to combat the epidemic. Since all spending requests have to be approved by the entire Legislature, the earliest that could happen is at our next session on April 14th.

As many of you know, I lost my brother to an overdose at a very young age so this is an issue I take personally, I believe we have a responsibility to the public not just pass something that throws money at a problem, we can take this measure and improve upon it so that we provide the best outcome to this crisis. As always, if I can ever be of assistance, please call me at 858-8856 or email ted.morton@erie.gov.