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Politics

$1 million commitment to help battle opioids embraced by county lawmakers

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More than a month after a proposal was first introduced to provide the Erie County Health Department with $1 million for efforts to curb opioid addiction, members of the Legislature agreed on how to proceed.

Lawmakers voted 10 to zero to approve a resolution that sets aside $1 million from the county's undesignated fund balance to support a request for proposals that will be handled by the Health Department.

"Any spending the Health Department would like to do, they are more than able and more than welcome to come to the Legislature and ask us to spend that money," said Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo. "I think a strong willingness has been shown by everybody in this body to help out in any way that we can."

The resolution approved favors the approach of seeking requests for proposals. Legislator Patrick Burke, who first proposed early last month giving the money directly to the Health Department, argued in subsequent committee meetings that the RFP process would hold up the delivery of dollars in an ongoing crisis. 

Burke was absent from Thursday's Legislature meeting, traveling out of town. In a telephone interview with WBFO, Burke expressed resentment that his original resolution was put aside in favor of one sponsored by Lorigo. He suggested "petty politics" were at play.

"Although I'm frustrated by the process and frustrated by what they've done, I at least feel vindicated that my proposal was correct," said Burke. "It's at least moving forward some way. It's not the way that I want, but it's something."

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