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Opioid crisis could be addressed if proposed budget passes

Chris Caya WBFO News

Residents should know later today if Erie County will try to address the countywide epidemic of fatal drug overdoses. A new opioid addiction hotline is in the proposed budget that county lawmakers are scheduled to vote on this afternoon.

The Erie County Legislature is scheduled to vote Thursday on the proposed 2016 budget. But some lawmakers may reject plans for the $18 million surplus.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz wants to use $375,000 for an opioid addiction hotline. And $750,000 to prevent lead poisoning. Poloncarz says it's not a funding issue - it's a matter of priorities.

"We do need to invest in our roads and bridges. But, we also need to invest in our public health, to ensure that our children are not poisoned by their homes. And to address what is a horrible, horrible epidemic, of on average, eleven people dying per week, due to the opioid crisis," Poloncarz said.  

Legislator Joe Lorigo - who chairs the finance committee - has been critical of using county savings for recurring expenses. Poloncarz says he will continue talking to lawmakers up until this afternoon's vote in the hope that his plan is approved in its entirety.