Three new federal grants totaling $3.4 million will help Erie County fight its opioid epidemic.
"These grants will save lives," Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said Tuesday.
While the grants are sought by many local governments, Erie County had an edge as it sought the money because county leaders have been ahead of the curve in addressing the crisis, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said.
"These are highly, highly competitive grants," he said of the funding from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice. "And what those two departments look for is, what entity throughout the nation can most efficiently and effectively administer those grants."
The grants will provide:
- $1.6 million over four years to expand access to the overdose rescue drug naloxone, better known as Narcan, to underserved areas throughout Western New York. The money will also go toward overdose rescue training and support for overdose response programs in hospital emergency departments.
- $1 million over three years to create an Opioid Overdose Review Board charged with shaping public health practices and policies related to opioid addiction. The board would look for weaknesses in how the community deals with the opioid crisis and recommend improvements.
- $854,233 over three years to help the Erie County Probation Department evaluate the drug overdose risk of individuals on probation. As part of the Probation Opioid Response Initiative, those considered to be at highest risk would be moved into a program featuring intensive supervision and peer counseling.
"It's going to finally give us the chance to get ahead of things," county Probation Commissioner Brian McLaughlin said.
The opioid drug epidemic has killed more than 1,300 county residents since 2012. The number of deaths has been falling since last year, however, leading to growing hope that the end of 2018 will mark the second straight year of declining opioid deaths. Local leaders said that's a sign that ongoing efforts the county has made over the past few years are working.
Poloncarz said some other counties in New York State have been much slower to address the opioid crisis, making their grant applications less attractive to granting agencies.
"There's no question of what we're going to do because we have a proven track record," he said.