By David Rodriguez and Eugenio Russi
Earlier this month, the White House outlined its 2014 Drug Control Policy, which clearly stated it is growing increasingly concerned by the potential transition from prescription opioid abuse to heroin and injected drug use.
Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in America. Hollywood is not immune. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died from a toxic mix of drugs, including heroin and cocaine, earlier this year. In 2013, “Glee” actor Cory Monteith died of an overdose of heroin and alcohol.
Here in New York State, hundreds of New Yorkers are dying each year from overdoses related to opioids – and the numbers have been steadily rising. In Erie County there has been an 85 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths alone between 2012 and 2013. On Feb. 26, The Buffalo News reported there had already been eight heroin overdose deaths in Erie County this year.
Methadone is the most studied treatment for opioid addiction. It is safe and reduces drug use and the criminality and health risks associated with it. It contributes to the health and safety not only of patients, but of the entire community.
Community-based treatment works partly because it is inclusive of our fellow neighbors. It offers comprehensive care, with wraparound services that can address patients’ social needs.
After 65 meetings with community agencies, it is long past due that we finally give our community the treatment it urgently needs. We invite our neighbors and family to help us do so. People with substance use disorders can overcome their addiction with appropriate treatment and the support of their communities and loved ones.
As Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said, “If we can prevent death from overdose and provide appropriate treatment, lives can be saved.”
The drug crisis is overpowering our capacity for treatment. We can’t wait any longer. We are losing our neighbors to drugs every day. HUB is ready to serve people now.
David Rodriguez is chairman of Hispanics United of Buffalo. Eugenio Russi is executive director.