OVERDOSE DEATHS FALL TO FOUR-YEAR LOW
County efforts to inform drug users about safer practices have kept more of them alive
Nearly 20 of Joseph Dudek’s friends are among the more than 1,000 Erie County residents who have died of opioid-related drug overdoses since 2015. But Dudek is still alive, despite his decades-long and continuing drug use.
He’s an example of how efforts to curb drug fatalities are paying off in Erie County, especially on the front lines. Treatment providers like Evergreen Health are dramatically changing how they work with drug users like Dudek, a 60-year-old North Buffalo resident. And, better-informed drug users are changing how they go about feeding their addiction until they’re ready to overcome it.
Dudek doesn’t shoot up alone anymore. He has someone watch him use drugs, even if it means he has to share his stash. He exchanges his needles. He keeps a Narcan rescue kit handy and inserts a thin, white test strip in every new batch of heroin to detect the presence of potentially lethal fentanyl.
“Some people push it all in and get it over with,” Dudek said of other drug users. “Me, no. I’ve got to be careful.”
Erie County’s fatal overdose rate reached nearly one a day in 2016, but now fatalities have fallen to a four-year low. As of last week, suspected and confirmed deaths for 2018 numbered 194 –