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Speaker series targets drug addiction

A group called Save the Michaels of the World is teaming up with Erie County Medical Center to raise awareness about opioid and prescription pill abuse.

The nonprofit was established in 2011 to raise awareness about the devastating effects of abusing opioids after 20-year-old Michael David Israel committed suicide during his struggles with addiction.

Dr. Mark Gunther, ECMC’s vice president of behavioral health, led the speaker series that was held Wednesday night at Hyatt Place in Amherst.

The group is collaborating with ECMC because of its numerous chemical dependency services, Gunther told WBFO.  He added that partnering with Save the Michaels of the World has been helpful to ECMC's medical team.

“Having a contact person through Save the Michaels of the World has helped our emergency department staff pave the way or smooth out some of the speed bumps that can be involved when a person comes to the emergency dept. for treatment,” Gunther said.

The help offered at ECMC depends on the severity of an individual’s addiction and withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes a patient can be stabilized in the emergency department and doctors will suggest outpatient therapy for dealing with their addiction. In worse cases, they admit patients to an acute medical bed in the hospital.

When individuals are admitted to ECMC for chemical detoxification, they can expect to spend somewhere between three and seven days in the hospital. Staff make sure individuals are given the necessary tools to continue their path to recovery after leaving the emergency department.

“Most people, we can get out within four days, and during that time we [help] them through that withdrawal process and we will also provide them with counseling and information that will help them understand that the detox process is really only the first step of treatment for a problem like this, and that usually the treatment starts when the person leaves the hospital."

Gunther said  the media can sometimes blur the lines between what’s true and false when it comes to dealing with addiction.

For these reasons, he believes it’s  important to provide accurate information in an educational setting, destroy any myths involving opioid abuse and encourage those who need help to seek it.

“One of the values of a speakers' series or having an event like this is the opportunity for a couple of different organizations to come together, invite members of the community in, and talk about these things,” Gunther said. “This way, people can really get what I consider the correct information, the best information from the horse’s mouth if you will.”

Save the Michaels of the World will continue to work with ECMC and are planning additional events in the spring and summer.

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