Tower Foundation provides grant to support Erie County's opioid efforts

Oct 22, 2015

Erie County, which is working in partnership with several stakeholders in a continued effort to combat opioid addiction, received a grant from the Tower Foundation to help fund the fight.

The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation's grant of $64,000 will help fund education and treatment initiatives.

Donald Matteson of the Tower Foundation speaks during a news conference during which a $64,000 grant was announced to help the county's anti-opioid addiction efforts. Listening are Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The efforts the Tower Foundation grant will support include education that addresses doctors' pain management. Some health officials are expressing concern that physicians are writing prescriptions too frequently for substances to which many patients become addicted.

"Working hand in hand with area health systems and health insurers, our goal is to arm all health care providers including doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners any physicians' assistants  with the best possible training and information for responsible pain management," said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein.

County officials say hydrocodone is the top-ranked drug prescribed to Medicaid patients (information regarding prescriptions issued to patients with private coverage was not available). Part of the reason behind so many prescriptions, some say, is a "pain free" culture.

"We don't just want to leave patients in pain," said Dr. Paul Updike with Sisters Hospital's addiction recovery program. "But clearly we need to look at how we've been treating pain, and the complications of the treatment of pain."

Local hospitals, health insurance providers and the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County are among the county's partners in battling opioid abuse. According to county health officials, 147 deaths so far this year in Erie County are linked to opioid overdoses.

"When Dr. Burstein contacted the Foundation a few months ago to describe a project that combines the work of the Erie County Health Department, the United Way, and the region's major health systems, we knew that we wanted to help," said Donald Matteson, chief program officer for the Tower Foundation.