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Twin Counties collaborate on addiction, recovery campaign

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    Art Gutierrez injects a dose of heroin. He recently watched a friend die after taking a lethal dose of fentanyl. Must credit: Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges
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    Signs on Route 23 south of Chillicothe, Ohio, on August 25, 2016. Opioid addiction and death from overdose is on the rise in Ohio. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount.
December 6, 2018 02:30 pm Updated: December 6, 2018 05:49 pm

Columbia-Greene Media

Columbia and Greene counties plan to contract with a Greenville-based marketing company to help the counties embark on a collaborative multimedia campaign to help combat the opioid epidemic.

The Columbia County Health and Human Services Committee approved a resolution to change a memorandum of understanding between Columbia and Greene counties to fight the opioid epidemic. The agreement includes a contract with KathodeRay Media Inc. for a cost of $19,725, which both counties will split.

The cost will be divided three ways, with each county committing $8,112 and the Columbia County Community Health Care Consortium Inc. paying $3,500.

The contractor, located at 20 Country Estates Road, Greenville, will provide consulting and other services to help the Twin Counties’ joint Addiction and Recovery Multimedia Campaign, which could involve a new website, multimedia advertisements and flyers.

“This is a joint county effort to combat this epidemic,” Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matthew Murell said. “This is part of our collaborative efforts to deal with this terrible issue.”

In Columbia County, two opioid overdose deaths took place in the first quarter of 2018, according to the most recent available data from the state Department of Health. Four people overdosed from opioid use in Greene County in the first quarter of the year, which is a rate of 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people compared to the state’s rate of 2.8 deaths per 100,000 people.

Greene County has contracted with KathodeRay Media Inc. for this kind of work for many years, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said.

“This is their business,” he said. “The people we need to reach, for the most part, are going to be younger people. The best way to do that is going to be through social media and the web.”

Keith Stack is the executive director of the Addiction Care Center of Albany, but is also a long-time resident of Kinderhook who formerly served as town supervisor from 1990 to 1996.

As a concerned resident who heads an addiction prevention, recovery and treatment center, Stack agreed to help guide Columbia County execute the opioid epidemic response plan county officials adopted in April 2017.

“The key to this is to coordinate public information and awareness,” Stack said. “We are looking for a consistent and accurate message about the services provided in the area. We want to minimize confusion as much as possible.”

A new standalone website will be an important tool to meeting that goal, Murell said, adding the site could provide education as well as links to resources provided by each county.

Both county websites will also have a link to the webpage dedicated to the Twin County campaign.

“There will be some overlap,” Murell added.

Officials have also planned an email campaign to connect county services with area grassroots organizations that help people connect with services or provide prevention services, Stack said. Twin County officials are looking to produce literature for town halls or other organizations involved with combating the opioid epidemic.

Work on the multimedia campaign should start before the end of the year, Stack said.

“This is a pretty exciting project,” Stack said. “This is a big step for the county following through on its response plan.”

Hiring Danielle Hotaling, the new addiction recovery coordinator was another significant part of the collaborative effort. Addiction recovery service provider Twin County Recovery Services hired Hotaling in October.

The new position will start as a two-year pilot program. Hotaling, who has a master’s degree in social welfare from the University at Albany, will primarily help people navigate the complex network of services both counties offer, as well as enhance education, prevention, treatment and recovery by working with other providers in the area.

Both counties helped to pay $39,000 for Hotaling’s position at the nonprofit, which they both agreed to in July. Both counties also agreed to provide money to be used for program items to be determined by Twin County Recovery Services.