Let’s say this upfront: Greene County’s proximity to the New York State Thruway, New York City and Albany, and the Massachusetts Turnpike makes it a ripe target for the drug trade.

It’s not surprising, but is extraordinarily disturbing, that Greene County is one of the state’s 62 counties hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

Of course, it is not so simplistic as that. Greene County is in the midst of a health crisis, equal to, if not surpassing the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a recent study, the “opioid burden” in Greene County was 33% higher than the rest of the Capital Region and 45% higher than the state as a whole. The number of overdose fatalities in the county has been on the rise in recent years.

In 2019, there were nine fatal overdoses, 14 in 2020 and this year, as of July 31, the number of fatalities is already up to 11.

The total number of overdoses in the county — fatal and nonfatal — has also been rising, peaking in 2020 when the majority of overdoses could be attributed to heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, and the shutdown of regular counseling by the pandemic.

Prescription drugs provided by physicians also contribute to the problem. The study found that many people in Greene County are affected and their addictions may have started or been escalated by prescription drugs. The incidence of prescribing dangerous prescription drugs in Greene County is high.

Addiction is treatable and there are ways to battle the problem.

Greene County is taking a multi-tiered approach to addressing the addiction problem with the collaboration of several agencies.

Prevention of overdoses or getting addicted is the first key action area. There are numerous services including certified recovery peer advocates. This is a relatively new certification for people who are trained and who have experience with addiction.

A peer advocate might be someone in recovery who can obtain certification from the state and serve as a certified recovery counselor. They can be helpful in a number of ways, especially with links to treatment center services and other forms of support.

Prevention counselors are also available in schools in grades 7-12 and youth support groups that aim to prevent addiction.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the old saying goes, but in the case of Greene County’s growing opioid problem, it is accurate. Stopping addiction before it starts today is the best way to prevent overdoses tomorrow.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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