Overdose alert raises new fears

An overdose spike alert has been issued for Greene County. Narcan kits to counteract an overdose are available free of charge from Greener Pathways. File photo

An overdose spike alert has been issued for Greene County.

The county issued the alert Friday notifying the community there has been a spike in overdoses.

“In the last 24 hours, there have been two overdoses in Greene County,” said Carl Quinn, program director for Greener Pathways, a community-based outreach program that assists people living with substance use.

The two overdoses were not fatal. One involved opioids and for the other overdose the drug was not classified, Quinn said.

The criterion for issuing an alert is two or more overdoses in the county in a 24-hour period, Quinn said.

“The software automatically generates an alert that is sent to the counties,” he said.

With a spike in the number of overdoses, there are concerns about tainted substances, according to a statement released by Greener Pathways.

“Be vigilant. This could be indicative of a contaminated drug supply,” according to the statement. “Overdoses have occurred in the past for people using crack, cocaine and other substances besides opiates including pressed pills that are made to look like a genuine pill but contain deadly fentanyl instead. Use safely and always assume your supply may be contaminated.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic similar to morphine, but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse website.

The last time Greene County issued an overdose spike alert was May 3, Quinn said.

Narcan kits, which counteract the effects of an overdose, are available free of charge to anyone who wants one, he added.

“We typically do get more requests for Narcan when these alerts go out,” Quinn said.

Requests for a free Narcan kit can be made by texting “NARCANKIT” TO 21000. The text will generate a short form the person can fill out, and then in most cases a kit will be delivered directly to them, Quinn said.

Free kits can also be picked up at Twin County Recovery Services offices in Catskill and Hudson.

There has been a continuing rise in the number of overdoses during the pandemic as shutdowns meant fewer resources, particularly in-person counseling, have been available.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented disruption to the normal operating procedures of health and human services agencies,” according to the group’s statement Friday. “Unfortunately, the necessity for overdose prevention and response has not abated during the pandemic.”

The rate of overdoses shows no signs of slowing down, Quinn said.

“Things are continuing to increase,” he said. “The number of overdoses has not gone down.”

With the long holiday weekend, there is also the possibility that overdose rates could continue to spike over the next few days.

“We especially want people to be vigilant this weekend because people will be back out in the community, doing their regular thing,” Quinn said. “With more activity, there may be more overdoses.”

There were four overdoses in the Twin Counties over the Memorial Day weekend in 2020, from Saturday through Monday, Quinn said, adding there are concerns that with two overdoses reported Friday, this year could be worse.

“We haven’t even gotten [to Saturday] yet and we are already at two, so we are concerned the numbers could be higher this year,” Quinn said.

Help is available to those who need it by calling Greener Pathways at 518-291-4500, Twin County Recovery Services Greene Clinic at 518-943-2036, the Greene County Mental Health Center at 518-622-9163 or the Columbia-Greene County Pathways to Recovery helpline at 877-467-3365. In an emergency, always call 911.

“Help is available and people shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for it,” Quinn said.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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