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Town Hall Meeting Epidemic Opioid Drug And Heroin Abuse
February 26, 2016 – Mayor Byron W. Brown and North District Council Member Joel Feroleto, joined by Avi Israel, founder of ‘Save the Michael’s of the World’, elected leaders, representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty, today announced a town hall meeting will be held to address the growing epidemic of prescription opioid drug and heroin abuse in cities across the country, including Buffalo and Western New York.
“This is an absolutely essential conversation as the number of individuals and families devastated by prescription drug addiction has grown at an alarming rate in cities across the country,” said Mayor Brown, noting that the city is committed to doing all it can to realize the solutions necessary to address this problem. “Drugs prescribed to reduce pain and improve quality of life are instead leading to addiction, overdose and suicides and we must stand together and take action before it can claim another life.”
“Opiate addiction has no boundaries. This epidemic is affecting all people, regardless of socioeconomic status. We need our community leaders, physicians, elected officials working together,” Councilmember Feroleto said.
"It's time as a community to say that enough people have died, and enough families destroyed, by the scourge of heroin and pill abuse," said U.S. Attorney William Hochul. "Given that virtually every home in the area has been affected, it's critical to attend this important event.”
The Town Hall Meeting will take place on Thursday, March 3, from 7 pm - 9 pm at the North Park Theater, 1428 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo. It will bring together local elected leaders, drug treatment advocates, and individuals whose lives have been affected by addiction to prescription medications and heroin abuse.
The town hall meeting is co-sponsored by the “Save the Michaels of the World, Inc.,” founded by Avi Israel, a Buffalo father, in memory of his son, Michael, who committed suicide in June 2011. The 20-year-old became addicted to Hydrocodone, an opioid pain medication, which was prescribed to control pain following surgery related to Crohn’s Disease.
Despite detox efforts, Michael continued to battle addiction and the resulting depression. Avi Israel formed the nonprofit group to raise awareness of prescription drug addiction. The group’s goal is to spread the word that abuse and misuse of controlled substances can lead to serious illness, depression, deaths from overdose, suicide, and devastation to caregivers and loved ones.
“At the time, we had no idea what help was out there, who to turn to, or even the realities of addiction. We want to make sure other families don’t have to go through the heartbreak and frustration we did. Hopefully, this event will provide the information people need to save their loved ones,” Mr. Israel said.
The March 3 town hall session will also include: John Flickinger, head of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s Buffalo office, Dr. Richard Blondell, a University at Buffalo professor, who is the Director of the National Center for Addiction Training, and Dr. Gail Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner. Also taking part in the discussion will be State Senators Timothy Kennedy and Marc Panepinto, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Assemblyman Sean Ryan and Erie County Legislator Peter Savage.
“The crisis of opioid abuse continues to spiral out of control,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “As a community we must all come together to address this, and to form a comprehensive plan to tackle all aspects of this deadly epidemic. I hope that we see a packed house full of neighbors and families who are ready to put an end to this crisis, and are eager to hear from medical experts, elected officials, and law enforcement about how to identify warning signs of abuse and how to help prevent it in the first place. Through this discussion, and with feedback from our attendees, we will work together to outline our next steps as a community and as a state.”
"The growing opiate and heroin epidemic facing our nation and Western New York is one we cannot afford to avoid," said Senator Marc Panepinto (D-Buffalo). "Tackling it head on starts with education. Under the guidance of Save the Michaels of the World, this educational community event will arm residents with the tools to fight back against heroin and opiate addiction. I encourage all residents to attend, to educate themselves and end this deadly epidemic."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, “Prescription opioid and heroin addiction are continuing to explode in Erie County, and across our state. We need to take action to combat this growing problem, and the upcoming community forum will be a productive discussion about what can be done to help end the epidemic and save lives.”
Erie County Legislator Peter Savage stated, "Engaging the public and increasing awareness is essential as it will truly take a community solution to this horrible epidemic. I look forward to taking part in this Town Hall Meeting and thank the Israel family for their leadership and partnership in this fight.”
The town hall meeting is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.
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Photos by Angel Art LTP, compliments of the Greater Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau. Additional photos by Adrian Roselli, compliments of Algonquin Studios