Buffalo, situated in Erie County, is a well known for its large college population, and it is home to 258,959 residents. Buffalo is not immune to the heroin and prescription opioid crisis that is taking place throughout the country.
According to The Buffalo News, in 2015, a collection of 50 community groups joined forces to combat the rising tide of prescription drug abuse, especially among young people. The campaign was publicly announced at the State University of New York, Buffalo State. Coordinators explained that they would be raising awareness of prescription drug abuse through print advertisements, radio ads, billboards, educational programs in schools, a website that includes referrals to organizations that can help, and a documentary on television.
The campaign developed in response to drug overdose rates, abuse statistics, and the exposure of two doctors in the Buffalo-Niagara area who were prescribing an inordinately high number of medications. In fact, these doctors were prescribing opioid pain relievers to patients at a rate which was 70 percent higher than the average for New York overall. The campaign, which has already received $1.2 million in funding, hopes to prevent new initiations into prescription drug abuse as well as encourage those in need of treatment to get it.
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Mayor Byron W. Brown is also working to help the public with the problem of heroin and prescription drug abuse in Buffalo. In February 2016, Mayor Brown called a town hall meeting to address this topic. Town hall meetings are an important way for the public to get involved, get educated, and voice their concerns and recommendations to public officials.
The mayor’s town hall meeting was cosponsored by the organization Save the Michaels of the World, which was founded by a Buffalo father who lost his 20-year-old son to suicide after he became addicted to hydrocodone (a prescription opioid pain reliever) following treatment for Chrohn’s disease. Save the Michaels aims to advise the public on the serious consequences of misusing or becoming addicted to drugs, such as overdose, suicide, loss of life enjoyment, and the pain drug abuse inflicts on loved ones. The town hall meeting emphasized that the public can help by using all available resources to educate themselves on the dangers of prescriptions opioids and heroin. The meeting’s message dovetails with the campaign goals described above; the public must increase its awareness of the prevalence of drug abuse, but to do so, it needs the relevant resources to be available.