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Opioid-related deaths doubled last year in Erie County

More evidence of an epidemic raging out of control arrived Friday when public health officials confirmed that the final total for fatal opioid-related overdoses in Erie County more than doubled from 2014 to 2015.

A record number 256 deaths related to opioid overdoses occurred in 2015 compared to 127 in 2014 – a 102 percent increase, according to the Erie County Health Department.

The typical victim, according to the data: a white male approximately 38 years old.

“This is a staggering total, especially when you consider the number of people in our community affected in addition to the deceased individual – family, friends and colleagues,” Dr. Gale Burstein, county health commissioner, said in a statement.

Burstein and others have been talking about a doubling of deaths for that period, so the confirmed figures do not come as a surprise. They also project another doubling to more than 500 deaths from heroin and prescription opioids this year.

Burstein and other public officials reported that they are working with organizations in the community under the auspices of the Erie County Opioid Epidemic Task Force to address what they describe as a “crisis.”

“Attacking the opioid epidemic in Erie County is one of my administration’s primary objectives,” Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said in a statement. “We are working with all levels of government, local, state and federal, to coordinate our resources to effectively attack this crisis throughout our families, workplaces and communities.”