Overdose statistics in the Twin Counties in the second week of April are about double the norm, Greener Pathways Program Director Carl Quinn said, as Greene County issued an alert Tuesday for a spike in overdoses.
As the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of nonessential gatherings, including addiction support group meetings, overdoses in Columbia and Greene counties are on the rise.
An overdose spike alert in Columbia County was issued Monday, followed by the alert for Greene County on Tuesday.
There have been six non-fatal overdoses reported in Columbia County since April 1, four of which occurred between Friday and Sunday, Quinn said.
Greene County also reported six overdoses, three of which occurred in one day, Tuesday, and triggered the alert.
“We normally have two to three overdoses a month in each of our counties,” Quinn said.
The overdoses were primarily linked to heroin, Quinn said.
“Some required multiple doses of Narcan,” Quinn said. “It’s probably a tainted batch strongly laced with fentanyl.”
The Columbia County overdoses occurred in the Chatham-Ghent-Philmont area, while the Greene County cases were more widespread, 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.
Some are afraid of losing the anonymity that traditional support group meetings offer, Quinn said.
“When you join some online meetings, you are asked to give your name to register,” he said. “Some are done in video meetings, so you do a live video that gives away your anonymity. There is the potential for an online meeting to be recorded. People might be less apt to open up in that situation.”
The change in meeting techniques was sudden for clients, Quinn said.
“It is so far out of the norm of what they’re used to,” he said. “Online is their only choice. This population is not going to deal well with change like that.”
Greener Pathways has been doing outreach in the Valatie, Kinderhook, Chatham and Philmont areas this week, as well as two locations in Catskill, Quinn said.
The organization distributes 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.
Quinn is hoping to set up locations in Cairo and on the mountaintop, he said.
Through the outreach efforts, about 140 Narcan kits, equivalent to 280 doses, have been distributed in the Twin Counties, Quinn said.
Greener Pathways also offers virtual support group meetings using Zoom daily at 2 p.m. with a clinician.
“In addition to that our peer advocates are following up with all of our active clients and reaching out to the DSS motels and vulnerable people we are trying to work with,” Quinn said.
Twin County Recovery Services and the mental-health departments in both Greene and Columbia counties are offering telehealth services, Quinn said.
To schedule a free appointment using the state’s mental-health hotline, call 1-844-863-9314.