With Election Day a little over two months away, Monroe County Executive candidate Adam Bello said the current administration has failed to lead and he introduced what he called a comprehensive plan “to better coordinate and expand upon the efforts” of individuals and organizations.
A spokeswoman for the Campaign to Reelect Cheryl Dinolfo replied that “opioid addiction is not a political issue.”
Bridget Harvey wrote in a prepared statement that County Executive Dinolfo has “executed a robust Opioid Action Plan” led by county health commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza and in partnership with the sheriff and district attorney. Harvey wrote that the county has trained residents in the use of Narcan, which can reverse an overdose, and the county has sued manufacturers of prescription opioids.
The county has a web page, www.monroecounty.gov/opioids/, that reports on the opioid situation.
Opioid overdose deaths in Monroe County have decreased from 220 in 2017 to 195 last year. Official data for any months of 2019 are not available. However, various police agencies in the county collect data from overdose crime scenes, and they have reported 72 fatalities through July.
Of the opioid overdose deaths last year, 13.3% were among African Americans and 7.7% were among Hispanics. In 2017, African American overdose deaths were 9.1 percent of the total and Hispanic deaths were 8% percent of the total. In 2015, African Americans accounted for 17.6% percent of deaths, or nearly one in five of all people who sustained a fatal overdose.
In a separate analysis in July of the financial cost of the epidemic, Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter put the price tag at $6.39 million to county taxpayers for 2018.
Bello currently is Monroe County Clerk. He announced the opioid plan Aug. 28. According to his plan if he were to be county executive, the county will:
- develop a network that would change the way patients receive and access treatment. In conjunction with an immediate dose of Suboxone, a drug that eliminates the craving for opioids, an individual admitted to a hospital emergency room would be able to make an appointment for long-term treatment within 24-48 hours;
- appoint an opioid director that will report to county executive and responsible for coordinating the efforts going on throughout the county, expand the prevention message, promote services available to families and improve data collection;
- will increase communication around addressing opioids, develop public goals and a vision for the effort; and
- make it a priority to increase coordination between mental health and addiction services.
“He’s got everything the way it needs to be,” said Randy Cimino, who leads Gates to Recovery, the drop-in centers in several towns that help the families and the individuals who use drugs. “If he is elected and does what he said he would do, we are really going to get some relief here.”
Bello’s plan is based on Buffalo Matters, which helps healthcare providers treat people with opioid use disorder. According to an analysis of the program by Rochester-based clinical and forensic scientist James Wesley, Buffalo Matters breaks down barriers between emergency department treatment and rehab facilities. The emergency departments also provide the medication Suboxone, which can block cravings and serve as a bridge until the person gets into longer-term treatment.
The Buffalo Matters network that links providers is what’s called “best practice” that has the backing of the state Department of Health.