The following is a guest column from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz: I recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to join my counterparts from across the country for a special meeting of the County Executives of America Association, a nonpartisan organization that includes elected officials from over 700 counties nationwide. The CEA brings these individuals together to discuss a multitude of national issues and their effects at the county level, as well as county-level responses to national challenges. My quick trip to our nation’s capital involved not only a meeting with my colleagues to discuss the latest information from the fight against the opioid epidemic, but also a meeting with Senator Charles Schumer to review that information as well. In addition, I was honored to take part in a ceremony remembering the victims of Flight 3407 and urging Congress to maintain air travel protections put in place since that tragedy eight years ago.
The opioid epidemic sweeping the country has alarm bells ringing at all levels of government and was a main point of dialogue among the assembled officials. As the sole NYS representative to the National City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic, I was honored to present them with the findings from our report “A Prescription for Action: Local Leadership in Ending the Opioid Crisis” which outlines steps local officials and agencies can take to stem the tide of opioid abuse in their communities. The report is the result of a year-long effort on the part of the National Task Force and examines the widespread issue of opioid abuse and best practices in dealing with it. Many of Erie County’s responses to the epidemic were included among the report’s final recommendations and are now part of this “blueprint” for community anti-opioid action, which was well-received by the CEA and will be used as a template in their own communities.
I also had the opportunity to discuss the report, its recommendations, other Erie County anti-opioid efforts and the importance of federal funding to continue the fight with Senator Schumer, who understands the gravity of the issue and is a staunch supporter in the struggle. It was a sobering conversation but one that underscored the need for partnerships at all levels of government to combat the problem. We also discussed potential cuts to anti-opioid funding in the proposed federal budget, cuts that would gut the progress made locally and across the country, and the Senator and I reaffirmed our commitment to do all we can to ensure these critical, life-saving funds are continued.
While in Washington I also joined members of our local Congressional delegation in a Flight 3407 remembrance event that served a dual purpose: to recall the lives of the individuals lost in that February 2009 tragedy and issue a call to lawmakers to preserve flight safety rules put in place since then to prevent another such incident. It is inconceivable that Congress would consider undoing regulations meant to protect airline passengers and crews, but such a proposal is indeed under consideration. Now more than ever, it is important to stand up for the people we are elected to represent and work to protect them from threats to their health and safety.