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Erie County lawmakers hear testimony on drug epidemic

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

The Erie County Legislature committee session on Thursday heard from a police officer, doctor and county health commissioner. Then, it heard from two moms who buried sons and a suburban teacher who has attended 15 wakes for former students.

Last September 1, Jacqueline Sullivan buried her son Stephen after the family dealt with 20 years of an active kid who turned into someone who died from drug use. Debra Smith could understand because she buried son Nathaniel two weeks later.

Frontier teacher Christina DeNisco has watched students turn into the focus of wakes. Sullivan says something has to be done individually because nothing fits all.
"Addiction is a family disease that affects everyone spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally," says DeNisco. "The two most common emotions are fear and anxiety. I read an article once that likened the experience to having a loved one critically ill in intensive care and being told that they may not make it. You feel powerless. Every waking moment there is impending doom."

Officials at the informational meeting, called by Health and Human Services Committee Chair Lynne Dixon, say potentially fatal drugs are everywhere and there aren't enough resources to deal with addicts, even when they are actively seeking help.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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