Erie County Department of Health, Partners Receive $300,000 Grant to Aid in Opioid Misuse Prevention in Women

Modified: November 20, 2017 2:29pm

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The Erie County Department of Health (“ECDOH”), in partnership with Neighborhood Health Centers and the Seneca Nation Health System, has received a 3-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health to address the prevention of prescription and non-prescription opioid misuse by women. One of twenty communities nationwide to receive funding, Erie County’s grant project will focus on opioid misuse among women of childbearing age, who have been identified as a population with an unmet need for increased opioid misuse screening and linkage to treatment. Erie County, similar to many U.S. communities, is experiencing a rapid rise in neonatal abstinence syndrome (“NAS”) incidence among infants born at local hospitals, a result of repeated fetal exposure to opioids. The Catholic Health System including Mercy Hospital, Mount St. Mary's and Sisters of Charity Hospital is also partnering in the effort.

At a press event announcing the grant today at Neighborhood Health Center Mattina on Niagara Street in Buffalo, Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein was joined by Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26), CEO of Neighborhood Health Center Joann Haefner, and Christine Jimerson of the Seneca Nation Health System.

“Families across the country and this community are struggling with the damaging ramifications of opioid abuse,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “The physical and emotional toll it takes on children has lasting consequences. This federal grant allows for a coordinated approach that promotes early intervention and treatment that supports healthier and stronger families.”

The grant funding will allow ECDOH to provide a suite of trainings as well as follow-up consultation to partner community-based OB/GYN practices to build their capacity to implement universal substance abuse screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (“SBIRT”) for women of childbearing age within their practices. At the end of each project year, ECDOH anticipates a significant increase in the number of women of childbearing age identified as misusing opioids and who will be receiving early intervention services.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said, “NAS is a growing problem in the United States, but NAS is preventable if women struggling with opioid use receive proper care and treatment before or during pregnancy. This grant will allow women’s health providers in Erie County to implement a unique initiative that focuses on non-pregnant women of reproductive age, pregnant women, and their babies to identify those who may need treatment for opioid use and get them into the appropriate care.”

"As a primary care safety net provider, Neighborhood Health Center's comprehensive, patient-focused and community-based care is a central component to a system that continues to increase access to healthcare and wellness for both our patients and communities," said Neighborhood Health Center Chief Executive Officer, Joanne Haefner. "This is why we are incredibly proud to partner with the Erie County Department of Health and Seneca Nation to create a comprehensive, integrated and public health approach to the delivery of early intervention treatments for local women and babies impacted by this crisis."

NAS can occur with a variety of both prescription painkillers and illicit drugs, and rates of NAS have increased 5 times between the years 2000 - 2013. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) estimate that one infant is born with NAS every 25 minutes in the U.S., accounting for an estimated $1.5 billion in healthcare spending annually. Public health approaches are needed to provide prevention of opioid use disorder across the lifespan, including for pregnant mothers and women of reproductive age.

“We continue to see the devastating effects of opioid abuse and misuse in our community, a scourge that does not discriminate in who it attacks but destroys all that it touches. With this grant we will be working to better protect women, mothers, and newborns from the ravages of addiction and helping them to get needed treatment,” added Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Opioids have caused too much destruction to families already and it’s imperative that we act now to shield the next generation from similar harm. Working with our partners, we can improve universal substance abuse screenings and get women the help and treatment they need for themselves and their children.”

Erie County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams (1st District) added, “This grant is great news and it will assist in the education and treatment process for women and their families throughout Erie County. Far too many women of child bearing age are addicted to opioids and this grant will help to protect them, their children, and their families.”

For more information:

On the Erie County Department of Health, visit