After implementing a referral program for mental health and addiction services in January, Columbia County has reported success in assisting individuals who need it.
The program was a collaboration between the Columbia County Mental Health Department, Greener Pathways — a substance use and recovery program of Twin County Recovery Services — and Columbia-Greene Addiction Coalition to connect people who appeared to be in need of services with them, according to a statement.
Columbia County Mental Health Department received 121 referrals and Greener Pathways received 45 referrals since January.
The sheriff and deputy sheriffs can refer people they interact with through an online form, which creates a request with the mental health department or Greener Pathways, according to the statement. Caseworkers from the organizations reach out to those referred to offer services.
Emergency calls continue to go to the sheriff’s office.
“The Department of Human Services is very pleased to be partnering with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department,” Dan Almasi, director of community services at Columbia County Department of Human Services, said in a statement. “The referral program has allowed for timely followup and created an opportunity to tell people about local mental health services and how we might be able to help them or someone they know.”
Carl Quinn, program director of Greener Pathways, said the rate of overdose has increased due to the pandemic.
“This innovative program gives us another opportunity to connect with our most at-risk community members. We are committed to meeting people wherever they are at in their addiction,” Quinn said.
An overdose spike alert was issued for Columbia County on July 27.
Two people overdosed from heroin within 30 minutes of each other, Quinn said at the time.
“They were both non-fatal, thankfully,” Quinn said. “They both happened within about a half hour of each other.”
From Jan. 1, 2021, through April 23, 2021, there were 36 suspected overdoses in Columbia County, compared to 22 over the same period in 2020, according to the Department of Health.
Although the referral program provides outreach to those who might need it, others seeking help are encouraged to contact the organizations directly, according to the statement.
The partnership will also have a booth at the Columbia County Fair to boost outreach, according to the statement.
Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett said in a statement the department is proud to be working in the collaboration.
“Agencies working together is a must with today’s epidemic ... Community members working with the community makes our entire county a better place,” Bartlett said.