As overdose numbers in the Twin Counties continue to spike amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Greener Pathways announced a new way to access the anti-overdose drug Narcan.
Greener Pathways partnered with the Rensselaer County Public Health Department to develop a texting service that will allow active users or their loved ones to request Narcan.
The service, which went live Wednesday, will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“What we run into with some of the people is that they’re not all entirely comfortable talking with us on the phone,” Greener Pathways Program Director Carl Quinn said. “They’re much more comfortable texting. We thought text would be a better thing to try. Some of the people don’t have minutes on their phone. They can text over Wi-Fi and not use their minutes.”
Cancellation of traditional face-to-face support group meetings during NY on PAUSE is exacerbating the strain. Organizations and clinicians are turning to online meetings and telehealth services, Quinn said.
“We wanted to offer an alternative to having to talk to someone on the phone and have more approachable outreach,” he said.
Rensselaer County began offering the service about three weeks ago, Quinn said, adding that about 32 people have used it so far.
Quinn worked with Rensselaer County Public Health Director Mary Fran Wachunas and her colleague Shaun Phoenix to get the program up and running.
When someone texts NARCANKIT to 21000, he or she will receive a short form to fill out. Greener Pathways receives that form and will deliver the Narcan, Quinn said.
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.”
In addition to requesting Narcan, the form gives an option for subscription to notifications about spike alerts in Columbia or Greene county, Quinn said.
There have been 19 overdoses, including one fatality, since March 1 in Columbia County. The fatal overdose occurred March 15 in Hudson.
In Greene County, there have also been 19 overdoses since March 1, with two fatalities. The first occurred in Palenville on March 18, the second in Cairo on April 15.
By comparison, from March 1, 2019, to April 21, 2019, Columbia County had three overdoses and no fatalities, Quinn said.
Last year’s numbers for the same period in Greene County reflect seven overdoses and three fatalities, Quinn said.
Another partnership against addiction formed earlier this month as Columbia County Pathways to Recovery joined forces with Mountain Top Cares Coalition.
“The opioid epidemic continues to dramatically impact Columbia and Greene county and our organizations saw this as a way to join forces and make a greater impact in both counties,” Columbia County Pathways to Recovery Acting President Lori Anderson said in a statement.
“We are thrilled to be able to bring this service to our Greene County residents and most especially to the mountaintop of Greene County, where our residents have been especially hard hit by the opioid epidemic,” said Jonathan Gross, part of the Mountain Top Cares Coalition leadership team.
The new partnership means both counties will have access to Columbia County Pathways to Recovery’s Recovery Helpline, which began in 2017.
The Recovery Helpline is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, and can be reached at 877-HOPE-365.
“All calls are confidential with non-judgmental, compassionate individuals waiting to assist you,” according to Columbia County Pathways. “Volunteers provide detox/rehab placement, referral services and offer support, compassion and assistance to people as they navigate their journey to recovery. In addition, during this COVID-19 outbreak, we are maintaining a list of online virtual support options available to the community to be sure people are staying connected to recovery supports and minimizing their self-isolation.”