Poloncarz, Burstein Visit Binghamton, Syracuse to Discuss Opioid Abuse Epidemic, Call to Action

Modified: February 8, 2017 8:25pm

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EC Executive, Health Commissioner meet with NYS Lieutenant Governor Hochul, counterparts from Broome, Tioga, Onondaga counties in open forums to present findings of National Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Abuse

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined today by Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein in visits to SUNY Binghamton in Vestal, NY and Onondaga Community College in Syracuse to continue their statewide dialogue and listening tour with elected officials and community members to discuss the findings of the National Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Abuse and to review policy and partnership solutions recommended by the Task Force. This morning’s open forum at SUNY Binghamton was hosted by Broome County Executive Jason T. Garnar and Tioga County Chairwoman Martha Sauerbrey and included remarks from NYS Senator Fred Akshar (NY-52). In the afternoon, Poloncarz and Burstein joined NYS Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Hochul and Onondaga County Executive Joanne Mahoney at Onondaga Community College for a similar forum that was also attended by officials from Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Oneida, and Oswego counties.

“I thank County Executives Garnar and Mahoney, as well as Chairwoman Sauerbrey, for hosting these meetings and working on behalf of their communities to stem the tide of opioid abuse. It is an epidemic that must be fought with a unified, community-wide approach that reaches across boundaries and jurisdictions to be effective,”said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “I also thank Lieutenant Governor Hochul for joining us today and underscoring New York’s unwavering support for anti-opioid efforts in communities across the state. Health Commissioner Burstein and I have been meeting with elected officials and concerned community members across the state about the Task Force report and what communities can do to address the issue in their own area. No one government, agency, or group can do it on their own, but fresh thinking and new collaborations are what is needed for success.”

“The heroin and opioid abuse epidemic is growing, and it cannot and should not be ignored. There are too many individuals and families in our communities at risk,”said County Executive Jason T. Garnar. “This is an opportunity for us as local leaders to come together with key agencies in our communities to discuss best practices and policies to address this issue now. With overdose rates steadily increasing, there is no time to waste.”

“Too many lives have been lost and too many heartbroken families are dealing with the aftermath of this awful heroin and opioid abuse epidemic. It is our responsibility as elected officials to cross county lines, come together, and develop a plan to combat this crisis. We won’t let heroin win. Not in our communities,”said Tioga County Chairwoman Martha Sauerbrey.

County Executive Poloncarz is the sole New York State local government representative on the National Task Force, which is composed of 22 elected leaders from counties and cities across the nation. In recent weeks, Poloncarz and Burstein have met with elected leaders in Dutchess, Ulster, Putnam, Suffolk, Rockland, and Orange counties. The open forums are also attended by county legislators, law enforcement, mental health, health care, and addiction prevention officials from these areas and are part of a nationwide effort being led by local leaders in an effort to focus on strategies and programs to prevent individuals from becoming dependent on prescription painkillers and heroin.

The National Task Force report, “A Prescription for Action: Local Leadership in Ending the Opioid Crisis”, contains recommendations for leaders at all governmental levels to collaborate in fighting opioid abuse. The best practices-based recommendations are aimed at city and county officials and provide templates for community leadership and regional cooperation, increasing public awareness and education, expanding treatment, and reassessing public safety and law enforcement approaches to the opioid crisis. Actions that can be completed at the state and federal levels are also outlined, along with numerous “Tools and Examples” of anti-opioid programs that have seen success across the country.

The full contents of the report are available at http://www.opioidaction.org/ .