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Amherst Holding Public Meeting Tonight To Address Drug Use | News

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Amherst Holding Public Meeting Tonight To Address Drug Use

AMHERST, N.Y. - Multiple law enforcement agencies and community organizations will gather tonight to address the rising issue of drugs and opiate abuse in Amherst and Williamsville.

"Anyone who doesn't think it's in their community needs to go out their front door," said Jodie Altman, the campus director of Kids Escaping Drugs.

The meeting will be led by the Amherst Task Force for Healthy Communities, Health Youth and the Amherst Youth and Recreation Department.

The town hall meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Amherst Town Hall Council Chambers, located at 5583 Main Street.

Officers from the Amherst Police Department and counselors who specialize in substance abuse prevention will also be in attendance.

"It's very alarming, the increase [in drug use]," said Lt. JoAnn DiNoto of the Amherst Police Department.

Experts say the drug epidemic involving drugs like heroin, Fentanyl and prescription pills is crippling communities. Amherst officials say there are more than 350 town residents in a state drug treatment program. 

The Erie County Department of Health says in 2014 there were 128 fatal drug overdoses countywide. In 2015, there were 188. In Amherst, fatal drug overdoses have tripled from 2014 to 2015. In 2014, there were five fatalities from drugs. Last year that number was 16. According to police, the latest overdose came on Christmas Eve.

"We recognize that the numbers are skyrocketing, and we understand we have to address it proactively," DiNoto said.

The discussion will be focused on the growing problem of opiate and heroin use in the community. Organizers say a resource fair will provide information on what help is available and how to access it when needed.

The use of Narcan, which reverses the effects of an overdose, has been an effective weapon in medicine, but leaders at Kids Escaping Drugs have their opinions about Narcan.

"We're saving lives. There's no doubt that our death toll would be way higher if we didn't have Narcan," Altman said, "[but] I feel it's a double-edge sword [because] we're also prolonging lives for the next use."

Altman says a good idea to improve drug treatment is to implement a 48-hour hold at hospitals. She says after the overdose hold the patient, don't just let them walk out the door.

"We need to get them help when they're getting Narcan and taken to a hospital. They're being released with nothing and to me that's when we strike, and that's not what's being taken care of," Altman said.





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