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Budget hearing serves as forum on drug epidemic

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

While most of the Erie County Legislature's public hearing on County Executive Poloncarz' budget proposal revolved around the mass of cultural agencies and their county grants, the meeting was dominated by the burgeoning crisis of fatal drug overdoses.

While speaker after speaker pleaded for cultural cash for agencies from the Buffalo Zoo to the Penn-Dixie Center, Debra Smith, mother of the late Nathaniel Smith, pleaded for help on drugs.
"We are losing five people per week in this county. Many of us filling these chambers today have been affected by the loss of a child, spouse or loved one. Some have lost more than one child," Smith said.

"Many of our loved ones begin this dark and twisted road of opiate addiction from an illness or an injury. As medical treatment is administered through pain medication, so is the curse of addiction."

Smith and others pleaded for help, from more police to fight drug use to more money for drug treatment to help people fight their addictions. That figure of deaths is despite wide-spread use of the drug antagonist Narcan, widely used by emergency responders and family members to reverse potentially fatal overdoses.

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.