Experts: Rise in overdoses linked to COVID

VALATIE — The second overdose spike alert this month was issued for Columbia County, where one fatality occurred, and after three non-fatal overdoses occurred Monday afternoon in Valatie.

“The 911 calls came in almost exactly at the same time,” Greener Pathways Program Director Carl Quinn said.

Two of the individuals were in a vehicle near the intersection of Main Street and Route 9, while a third person was in a vehicle at the other end of Main Street near Mechanic Street, Quinn said.

All three overdoses were linked to heroin and the individuals were revived with multiple doses of Narcan, Quinn said.

Overdose numbers have skyrocketed in the Twin Counties compared to last year.

There have been 19 overdoses since March 1 in Columbia County, one of which was fatal and occurred on March 15 in Hudson.

By comparison, from March 1, 2019, to April 21, 2019, Columbia County had three overdoses and no fatalities, Quinn said.

Greene County is experiencing a similar increase.

Since March 1, there have been 15 overdoses, with a fatality in Palenville on March 18 and in Cairo on April 15.

Last year’s numbers for the same period reflect seven overdoses and three fatalities, Quinn said.

Quinn said the increase in overdoses is linked to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

“We’re hearing the drug supply is limited, which would be a good thing,” he said. “Drug dealers are not able to be in transit. The supply has been interrupted. People may not be using their same reputable person they had been using in the past.”

Another consequence of the pandemic is the loss of traditional, face-to-face support group meetings, Quinn said.

“People are isolating and not able to get to their sober support meetings,” Quinn said.

Technological limitations cut clients off from the services they need, he added.

“A lot them don’t have cell phones, or they only have Wi-Fi but no minutes to be able to participate in meetings,” Quinn said.

Greener Pathways offers virtual support group meetings using Zoom daily at 2 p.m. with a clinician.

The Columbia County Department of Health issued a statement on the recent spike.

“It is likely that this dramatic uptick is connected to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation/postponement of events, holidays and closing of schools and many workplaces,” according to the department of health. “This incredible reduction in physical contact that is saving the public’s health is also putting those in active addiction and those in recovery at risk.”

The Greener Pathways team Tuesday conducted an outreach in Valatie, Quinn said, which involves distributing Narcan kits to adults who complete the mandatory training, as well as care bags containing toothpaste, toothbrushes, granola bars, water, solar blankets and resource packets.

Greener Pathways was scheduled to be at Hannaford Supermarkets in Cairo from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., the former Key Bank in Tannersville from noon to 1:30 p.m., and the Lumberyard parking lot off West Bridge Street in Catskill from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The organization is also working to develop a Narcan text line, where those in need could text the word “Narcan” to a 5-digit code, Quinn said.

The Columbia County Department of Health encourages those who may be actively using to use safely, let a loved one know where you are and have access to Narcan. Those who have loved ones struggling during this time are encouraged to regularly check in.

Greener Pathways, 518-822-7437.

Columbia County Pathways To Recovery, 877-467-3365.

Twin County Recovery Services, 518-828-9300 or 518-943-2036.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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