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County law will mandate concussion training for youth sports coaches

The Erie County Legislature is poised to approve a new law Thursday that will make concussion safety courses mandatory for all coaches of youth sports in Erie County. The law, which would take effect immediately, is expected to pass overwhelmingly just as schools are letting out and summer youth sports move into full swing.

Meanwhile, the Legislature also is slated to adopt the final component of County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s lead prevention initiative, which would involve hiring more county employees to nearly double the number of environmental health inspections the county does now and improve services to children with high lead levels in their blood.

The concussion training law would fine youth sports organizations $100 to $200 if they cannot produce records showing that all of their coaches have taken concussion safety courses either in person, through their sports organizations, or online. The requirement would primarily affect smaller, independent youth organizations that engage in contact sports.

The proposal requires that coaches of any “contact or collision sports” take a free concussion safety program offered by the County Health Department or online through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s HEADS UP to Youth Sports.

“The state already mandates the coaches of public schools have this training,” said Legislator Patrick Burke, D-Buffalo, who co-sponsored the law along with Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo, C-West Seneca. “It just seems crazy to me that not everyone is mandated to have this concussion training.”

Though the new law would take effect immediately, Burke said he expects the county will give sports organizations a grace period prior to enforcement of the new requirements.

The Legislature also:

• Is expected to adopt the final piece of the five-year, $3.75 million lead poisoning prevention plan: hiring of five additional home inspectors, a nurse to follow up on child lead poisoning cases, a supervisor and a clerk. The county plans to advertise the new positions immediately, said Poloncarz spokesman Peter Anderson.

These jobs were held up by the Legislature until the county was recently awarded a $3.4 million grant by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to offset the program costs.

Erie County has one of the highest rates of childhood lead poisoning in the state, according to data from the CDC.

The Legislature also:

• Will decide whether to approve Erie Community College’s $108.5 million budget for next school year, which raises student tuition by 3 percent, hikes student technology fees, and cuts 50 vacant positions.

• Will vote on the recommendations of the Erie County Charter Revision Commission, including lengthening Legislature terms from two to four years and making it easier for elected officials to get raises after an intervening election.

email: stan@buffnews.com