CATSKILL — The Greene County Sheriff’s Office announced it is launching a new overdose response program.
“The Greene County Sheriff’s Office is proud to announce a new program we have developed in partnership with several other community based agencies,” according to the announcement.
The program, called the Impacted Citizen’s Program, was created in collaboration with several other community organizations such as the Greene County Mobile Crisis Assessment Team, the Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties and the Columbia-Greene Addiction Coalition.
“A Greene County Sheriff’s Office member will be following up on all overdoses in the county within 24-48 hours and offering to be a conduit to support services such as mental health, rehabilitation or counseling for both the subject that overdosed as well as affected family and friends,” according to the announcement. “Other components of the program will include training for law enforcement and other first responders on the complexities of this overwhelming drug issue and how best to deal with it. We truly hope that we are able to have a wide spread positive effect on the county and help as many people as possible that are struggling with addiction. We thank all those that helped us make this happen.”
While the state was on PAUSE due to COVID-19, the twin counties have experienced an increased number of overdoses.
In Greene County, there have been a total of 39 overdoses since March 16, three of which were fatal. During the same time period in 2019 there were 16 overdoses and three fatalities.
Columbia County had 27 overdoses and three fatalities since March 16. In 2019 there were seven overdoses and two fatals.
“The Greener Pathways Program is glad to be part of the new Greene County Sheriff’s Impacted Citizen’s Program and has actively participated with many other agencies in the planning to get the program to this point,” Program Director Carl Quinn said. Greener Pathways is the Mobile Outreach Program for Twin County Recovery Services.
Greener Pathways launched a texting service in April with the help of Rensselaer County to make Narcan more accessible.
Twin County residents in need of Narcan can text NARCANKIT to 21000 to receive a kit.
The texting option is not an emergency service and should not be used in place of 911 if an overdose occurs, Quinn said.
“It’s just to get Narcan in the community,” he said. “If someone is in active use and wants to have it with them, or a family member or loved one of someone actively using wants it.”
The recent increase in overdoses is likely linked to the pandemic, Quinn said.
For example, those in recovery have lost 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 limits cut clients off from the services they need, he added.
“A lot them don’t have cellphones, 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.
In November, Greene and Columbia counties accepted funding to participate in a national opioid study. Both counties are among 15 in the state to receive national funding to reduce opioid deaths.
The goal of the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is to reduce opioid-related deaths by 40% over three years. The $86 million grant was awarded to Columbia University’s School of Social Work, which will work with the counties to reduce opioid use, increase medication-based treatment, increase treatment retention beyond six months, provide recovery services and expand the distribution of naloxone, according to a release from NIH.
The Greene County Legislature passed a resolution in November authorizing the agreement between the Greene County Community Services Board and Columbia University.
The Community Services Board was awarded $1.3 million, according to the resolution.
This amount represents the first grant disbursement for the three-year period, Greene County Director of Community Services Jason Fredenberg said.
Columbia County also received funding.
Counties qualified for the funding as being the top counties for opioid deaths in the state, Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell, R-Stockport, said in November. It’s not an accolade the county is proud of but they are grateful for the funds to help solve the problem, he added.
Sixty-seven communities in four states are involved in the study, according to the resolution.
The other states, part of the overall $350 million study with the National Institutes of Health, are Kentucky, Massachusetts and Ohio, Fredenberg said.
The Twin Counties also entered a two-year pilot program for its Columbia-Greene Addiction Coalition, which is now in its second year. Each county contributes $39,000 per year to improve recovery services in the region. The program is also funded by the Healthcare Consortium and was developed with the help of Twin County Recovery Services.
For help, contact Greener Pathways, 518-291-4500 or 518-822-7437; Columbia County Pathways To Recovery, 877-467-3365; Project Safe Point 1-866-930-4999; or Twin County Recovery Services, 518-828-9300 or 518-943-2036.