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Thank you to the Buffalo News and WBEN’s a New Morning for highlighting MATTERS’ Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joshua Lynch, in this important discussion!

Click Here for the Meeting Slideshow

The Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force hosted their quarterly meeting Monday, August 7th. According to the information shared in the meeting, Erie County will see a record high of overdoses in 2023, surpassing overdose deaths recorded at the peak of the public health emergency in 2016 and during COVID-19.

The opioid crisis has evolved over the last several years; fentanyl has contaminated most of the heroin drug supply and is becoming more prevalent in stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines. Erie County Department of Health reports that over 80% of all opioid-related deaths involved cocaine. This contamination of non-opioids with fentanyl puts a new population of individuals at risk. Individuals who use stimulants and other drugs may develop an opioid dependence and/or experience an opioid overdose without ever knowing they were exposed to fentanyl.

In an interview with WBEN, MATTERS Chief Medical Officer notes “When it comes to people using cocaine and other stimulants, one strategy is to urge people to test it with fentanyl testing strips. This allows people to take a small amount of drug and test it to see if there’s fentanyl in it. If there is, the recommendation is not to use it, or use with someone, never use alone, always have Narcan available and be ready to call 9-1-1”.

Xylazine, an FDA-approved veterinary tranquilizer, is a non-opioid that has made its way into the drug supply across the United States. Xylazine is toxic to humans, causing severe skin wounds that often lead to limb amputation.

The demographics of individuals experiencing fatal overdoses are also changing: in previous years young adults were the most at-risk and today, individuals 40+ years old make up over 60% of all fatal opioid overdoses.

The call to action as a result of this Task Force meeting is to continue to adapt to the changing opioid crisis. Dr. Joshua Lynch from MATTERS states in an interview with Buffalo News “This [epidemic] continues to evolve, and if you’re complacent as a public health official, as a doctor — even for a couple of months — you’re now behind.”

MATTERS continues to adapt to the dynamic opioid crisis across New York State (NYS) by offering various services to support and treat individuals with opioid use disorder. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MATTERS partnered with two virtual emergency departments to connect individuals with opioid use disorder to an evaluation and medication prescriptions, as appropriate. In 2022, MATTERS partnered with BestSelf Behavioral Health and the Value Network to develop a 24/7 hotline in Western New York for individuals with opioid use disorder to be evaluated and linked to treatment.

MATTERS has expanded to a mobile application to improve access to their resources; from the MATTERS app or website, individuals can get linked to a telemedicine evaluation, submit rapid referrals to treatment, and request free harm reduction supplies. MATTERS facilitates free harm reduction trainings, including how to respond to an opioid overdose and administer naloxone (commonly referred to as Narcan). The MATTERS Network also distributes free fentanyl and xylazine test strips to individuals and organizations across NYS for overdose prevention. Since the distribution program launched last year, MATTERS has distributed over 1 million fentanyl test strips across NYS.

For more information or linkage to services, call 765-MATTERS.