Erie County is in the middle of an addiction crisis – a crisis that is claiming, on average, more than one life every day. So it is welcome news that Erie County has earmarked $1 million to the fight against addiction. Better still, the county will solicit ideas on how to spend the $1 million to make sure the money can be put to the best use.
It may not seem like a huge pot of money, given the scope of the problem, but properly targeted in high-needs areas it could have an outsize impact.
In light of the tension between traditional solutions and out-of-the-box thinking, legislators have decided on a two-pronged approach. They approved an expedited process to receive and select community proposals. At the same time, they reserved the right to act swiftly on good ideas they are already aware of in addressing this fast-moving disaster.
County health officials will solicit community proposals for half of the $1 million, to come from county savings. Then the county will – just as swiftly – draft a request for proposals within one week. The Legislature could approve the process by June 9. Community groups would have two weeks to submit applications.
Compared with the usual pace of government action, this is a blazing timeline. But there is good reason. The opioid epidemic is picking up speed here at home and across the nation. The Centers for Disease Control on its website cites this startling statistic: “… the majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid.” Often those who can no longer afford or access prescription opioids turn to heroin, which often is laced with fentanyl.
Commissioners for the local departments of health and mental health have presented several ideas at a recent Legislature committee meeting, as reported in The News. They, too, welcome public input.
Supporting a public process to bring the best ideas to the table and then acting quickly to implement them should provide additional resources to help fight the devastating pull of addiction.