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Town forum to address opioid epidemic slated for Thursday night at North Park

A 4-year-old child got into a relative’s pain medication and was revived with Narcan last year.

Two cancer patients overdosed on their pain meds recently because the levels weren’t properly adjusted.

This year, an off-duty police officer overdosed on heroin and needed two doses of Narcan to be revived.

And on Tuesday at the Buffalo City Mission downtown, police said, an individual died from what was believed to be a fatal overdose of opiates.

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After hundreds of people have died from overdosing on heroin or opiates since 2015 and many more have survived overdoses, 20 leaders from across the community are coming together for a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the North Park Theatre to shed light on the deadly epidemic.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the two-hour event at 1428 Hertel Ave.

“What I want people to know is there is very little that is understood about this addiction, which is a disease of the brain,” said Avi Israel, founder of the Save the Michaels Foundation, which is sponsoring the town hall session.

“It’s a family disease, and it destroys families.

“When somebody in the family is afflicted with it, we really don’t know what to do or where to go.”

His son, Michael Israel, 20, became addicted when doctors started prescribing opioid painkillers in treating him for Crohn’s disease. He took his own life in 2011.

Buffalo police urged citizens to attend, pointing out that opiates can affect almost anyone.

“We had a 4-year-old last year who got into a relative’s pain pill prescription and overdosed. We used Narcan to revive the child,” said Community Policing Lt. Steven J. Nichols. “We also recently had two cancer patients overdose on their prescription pain medication because it hadn’t been properly adjusted.

“Narcan was also used to revive them.”

Among the officials scheduled to attend the town hall are U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., Mayor Byron W. Brown, Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr., Erie County Health Commissioner Gale R. Burstein, and John P. Flickinger, head of the Buffalo office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Also set to attend are State Sens. Timothy M. Kennedy and Marc C. Panepinto, Assembly Members Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes and Sean M. Ryan, all Buffalo Democrats; Erie County Legislator Peter J. Savage III and Delaware District Council Member Joel P. Feroleto, both Buffalo Democrats.

Treatment experts include Dr. Richard D. Blondell, Dr. Anne Marie Reynolds, Robert A. Kent, chief counsel for the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse; Dennis C. Galluzzo, executive director of the Pharmacists’ Association of Western New York; and Jodie L. Altman, director of the Renaissance campus in West Seneca, a treatment facility for young people.

Additional information on the town hall is available at savethemichaels.org.

email: lmichel@buffnews.com