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Proposed opioid hotline is on hold

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Chris Caya WBFO News
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An effort to save lives sparked a lengthy and heated discussion in Old Erie County Hall on Thursday.

During a committee hearing on a proposed opioid addiction hotline, County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale told legislators that the hotline would help the county fight an uphill battle. Since 2013, opioids have claimed over 500 lives in Erie County. Burstein says workers would be qualified and able to do more than make referrals. 

"They'll also be able to provide some counseling over the phone because again they'll be highly trained experts," Burstein said.

Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo said he understands the hotline's value. Lorigo says his dispute with County Executive Mark Poloncarz is over how it will be funded.

"We've asked him to make this a priority in the budget process. Instead all we have before us is a one-shot without any information where the money is coming from or how we're going to pay for it going forward."  
    
The hotline would cost $375,000 through the end of the year. Avi Israel - who lost his son to drug addiction - blasted lawmakers for putting dollars over lives.

"We finally got something positive going and we're playing games with it."   
 
The full legislature is expected to vote on funding the hotline at their next meeting April 14.