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Editorial: Leading the opioid fight

Hope is a feeling that seems in short supply when dealing with our national opioid crisis. But there are reasons for it with the news from last week about a 17 percent decline in the number of Erie County residents who died from opioid overdoses last year.

This promising development owes a lot to a proactive approach to tackling the addiction crisis, as well as cooperation among law enforcement, physicians groups, hospitals, government and community agencies. With many lives threatened by the scourge of addiction, it’s refreshing to see that turf wars and other professional friction can be put aside to serve a greater cause.

Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein spelled out some of the successful steps taken to save lives here, including: training first responders and residents in the use of Narcan; implementation of a local 24-hour addiction hotline; promoting faster access to addiction treatment medications such as Suboxone; and the expansion of a pilot program that helps counselors connect with people who have been treated by Narcan by police and points them toward treatment.

Burstein also singled out the Opioid Epidemic Task Force, which coordinates efforts among various groups, including first responders, community members and treatment providers.

There is more work yet to do. As Burstein said. “We want to have zero overdose deaths.”

Still, it’s nice to see our region setting an example. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics showed a 12 percent increase in drug fatalities nationwide. It appears that other cities and states across the country could learn a few things from the anti-addiction campaign being waged in Erie County.

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