HUDSON — Columbia County officials are discussing an agreement with their towns to host sites for Narcan training.
In Columbia County, any time after a spike in overdoses, the county Department of Health, in conjunction with Twin County Recovery Services and Greener Pathways, sets up a mobile Narcan station to dispense Narcan kits and teach people how to properly use them.
Under the agreement, Columbia County municipalities would allow sites to be held at various firehouses and town halls throughout the county.
“They are very responsive, they have a van that they can park in the parking lot of the town municipal building at the Town Hall,” Kinderhook Town Supervisor Patsy Leader said.
“It is something that’s needed,” she said. “Narcan has been used numerous times by the residents that live there. I think that if more people know that they have it, and can use it that it will be more helpful to save lives, and we need that. These people need help so training is always a vision that we need to keep going and helping. We have a lot of overdoses in the town of Kinderhook alone.”
Columbia County uses a program called ODMAP, which tracks overdose cases in the county through the 911 system.
Columbia County nurse and community liaison Kristy Frederick said when the county sees a spike in the numbers, the county sets up a mobile Narcan training site as part of its overdose response plan.
At a county Health and Human Services Committee meeting, Columbia County Health Department Director Jack Mabb said this is not a contract but an agreement with the various municipalities to allow the mobile Narcan service to be set up at local town halls or firehouses.
Mabb said the program has been successful.
“When we hit certain spike criteria we activate resources,” Mabb said. “We notify all agencies that would be involved with an overdose to let them know that there has been an increase so they can be prepared.”
If there is a larger number of overdoses in a certain area, the county has different locations where communitywide Narcan training can be done so the community can come to those trainings.
“They can be trained with Narcan, walk away with a Narcan kit and the knowledge of what an overdose looks like and how to handle it,” Frederick said.
Greener Pathways has between four and six mobile training events a month. Some of these are planned events and some are in response to a spike in overdose numbers. Columbia County has had three spike alerts since Aug. 1, according to Greener Pathways Program Director Carl Quinn.
“It allows us to go out there and meet the public where they’re at,” Quinn said. “Sometimes people don’t know where to call to get Narcan, sometimes they are worried about being flagged by somebody asking for Narcan, so for us to take it on the road out in the community where they can just walk up to our RV and say to a staff member, ‘I would like to get Narcan, I would like to get trained.’ We can do that on the spot.”
“They give us minimal information, and then we can give them Narcan and show them how to use it,” Quinn said. “It’s a very open, nonintrusive way to do it.”
Quinn has seen overdose numbers rising in Columbia County during the COVID pandemic.
“The biggest thing that we think contributed to that increase was when New York state went on pause,” Quinn said. “It suspended a lot of services that people in active addiction reach out to in support.”
“Everything moved to online or virtual models and that dosen’t sit well with a lot of the population we work with,” Quinn said. “We have people who some don’t have phones, some are living in motels where they don’t have Wi-Fi available or they don’t have minutes on their phones, so it makes it very difficult for them to keep on track on a regular basis.”
Columbia County saw a 46.1% increase in deaths attributable to an opioid pain reliever from 2016 to 2017, according to the state Health Department’s 2019 County Opioid Quarterly report.
Columbia County ranked 12th in New York state for opioid emergency department visits with 51 in 2017.
In the minute when an overdose happens, one minute can save a life, Frederick said.
“That’s why it’s so important for everyone to be Narcan-trained,” Frederick said. “It’s not just for family, friends, it’s for anybody. You can save a life anywhere anytime by carrying naloxone.”