Overshadowed for months by the coronavirus pandemic, what has become known as “the other epidemic” is receiving some badly needed attention.
The opioid crisis bubbled under the surface of COVID-19 since last March and has not gone away. If anything, it has grown worse in Columbia and Greene counties.
Greene County has 68 officially reported overdoses from the beginning of the year to July 20, with seven fatalities. Compared to the same time period in 2020, this reflects a 17% increase in fatalities, according to data from the Overdose Mapping Application Program. Columbia County has 49 officially reported overdoses year-to-date — a 20% increase over last year — including five deaths.
We can’t ignore the significance of this data. Law enforcement, counselors, therapists, physicians and a host of health professionals entered the fray and have not given up their fight to reverse, or at least check, the advance of opioid abuse. Still, the number of overdoses and fatalities continues to trend upward.
State Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-Saugerties, was scheduled to host free Narcan training outside the Greene County Office Building on Main Street in Catskill yesterday. In partnership with Greener Pathways, a substance use and recovery program, and the Catskill Police Department, trainees will learn to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose and how to administer Narcan — also known as naloxone — to temporarily reverse the effects of overdose.
Hinchey, who has been hosting Narcan demonstrations in all five counties in her 46th Senate District said Greener Pathways Program Director Carl Quinn recommended the training in Greene County take place in Catskill, Cairo or on the mountaintop, because those communities have been hardest hit with active opioid use.
Knowing how to use Narcan in an emergency will be helpful, but the dismal statistics from Greene and Columbia counties show that much more needs to be done before “the other epidemic” is beaten back.