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Opioid crisis leads to new strategy

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    Packets of heroin. Columbia and Greene counties are increasing their coordination to deal with the opioid epidemic. Columbia County saw 11 opioid overdose deaths in 2017, according to data from the state Department of Health, a rate of 18.15 per 100,000 people. Greene County had seven opioid overdose deaths in 2017, which is a rate of 14.76 per 100,000 people.
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    Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell. Murell touted many of the things the county has done to help battle the opioid crisis. The county is scheduled to consider a resolution Wednesday to create a new Addiction and Recovery Coordinator.
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    Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden. Greene County will share the cost of a new Addiction and Recovery Coordinator with Columbia County. Groden said the opioid epidemic has reached a point where both counties need a full-time person dealing with services the counties offer.
July 9, 2018 11:13 pm

HUDSON — Columbia County officials will consider creating a new position to help marry what the Twin Counties offer to help people with substance abuse disorders at the next county Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday as the opioid epidemic persists.

Greene and Columbia are touting their efforts to collectively tackle the opioid epidemic, saying a lot is being done, but the counties still lack residential rehabilitation and detoxification services.

The Board of Supervisors will consider changes Wednesday to its contract with the local nonprofit Twin County Recovery Services, Inc., to create a new coordinator position to help people navigate the vast number of addiction recovery services both Columbia and Greene counties offer.

Both counties will share evenly the cost of a new Addiction and Recovery Coordinator — $39,000 from each county. The coordinator would provide a supervisor who will help both counties’ addiction services including education, prevention, treatment and recovery work together.

“We started taking inventory of the services we offer,” said Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell. “We want people to know what we are doing to fight this epidemic.”

Columbia County reported 11 opioid overdose deaths in 2017, according to data from the state Department of Health, a rate of 18.15 per 100,000 people. The state saw overall 1,355 opioid overdose deaths in 2017, a rate of 6.82 per 100,000.

Greene County reported seven opioid overdose deaths in 2017, which is a rate of 14.76 per 100,000.

The county rates, well above the state average, add urgency to the local opioid crisis, officials agreed.

“The heads of both counties have met several times and we decided we need another person, a boots on the ground sort of person, whose sole focus is the opioid problem,” said Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden. “The crisis has reached a point where we need a person handling it full-time.”

The Addiction and Recovery Coordinator will start as a two-year pilot program that will be evaluated before being renewed, Groden said.

The Greene County Legislature’s Health Services Committee was scheduled to take up the county’s own resolution at its Monday meeting. After that the Finance Committee will consider the resolution next Monday and then it could come before the full Legislature at its meeting next Wednesday.

“Just doing things on our own, we reach 60,000 Columbia County residents,” Murell said. “But working together we can reach 100,000 Twin County residents. We have a better opportunity to help people.”

Murell touted many of the county’s efforts so far to help battle the opioid crisis including:

n Committing to support the nonprofit Columbia Pathway’s to Recovery Helpline

n Countywide educational forums

n Increasing the number of locations for syringe disposal and medication take-back boxes.

n Increasing the use of Narcan by first responders and all citizens.

n Increasing the capacity for medication-assisted treatment options.

n Continuing law enforcement’s approach to enforce laws for high-level drug dealings.

n Entering a class-action lawsuit against opioid pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Columbia County also has jail-based recovery services for inmates, a program that the county received a $156,000 grant from state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-43, to expand.

Columbia County will also put up four billboard advertisements — approximately $2,000 apiece for three months — providing contact information for services that can help people facing addiction. The billboards will be located on Fairview Avenue, Route 9H near the Columbia County Airport, near Bells Pond and Healy Boulevard.

Greene County is working on setting up new websites dealing with the crisis and also placing billboard advertisements, Groden said.

“It would be nice to have our own residential detox and rehabilitation centers,” Murell said. “We have education and prevention services, but treatment services is something we need to be focused on. Our treatment centers are limited here.”