VALATIE–The Town of Kinderhook courtroom was standing room only during a meeting last week about the heroin use and recent deaths from overdoses.
Town Councilwoman Patsy Leader, who said at recent Town Board meeting that there have been several overdoses in the town and at least four deaths from drug use, put together the meeting. Among those attending were State Police, county Sheriff David Bartlett, Executive Director of Twin County Recovery Services Beth Schuster and Senior Prevention Educator for Catholic Charities Mary Minahan.
In the audience were several Valatie Village and Kinderhook town residents along with Chatham Village Police Chief Paul Volkmann and Stephanie Campbell, director of policy for the Friends of Recovery, as well as other people involved in recovery groups.
“I had no idea there were going to be this many people here. This is exciting,” said Ms. Schuster. She talked about programs that Twin County offers for recovery, saying, “There is a lot that goes with drug use; it’s not just the drug.”
Ms. Minahan talked about the programs offered by Catholic Charities in the Ichabod Crane School District, saying the district “is on the ball” about drug awareness education. She said that she ran a program in kindergarten and first grade last school year and will come back this school year for a k-thru-3rd-grade program and that there are programs in the other grades, as well as the sheriff’s DARE program. Awareness is part of the district’s health education curriculum. She stressed that Catholic Charities receives funding from the state to go into the school district to address drug abuse issues and that she is not in the district representing a religious organization.
“I believe in prevention and education,” said school board member Regina Rose, but said that “the school is pretty limited in what they can do.”
Law enforcement officers at the meeting said that residents need to call the police if they see anything suspicious. “This is touching everybody” said State Police Investigator Bill Mulrein. “We are doing as much as we physically can,” he said at the beginning of the meeting. He stressed that the police need residents to say something if they see drug activity.
Sheriff Dave Bartlett said that his officers are being trained in recognizing signs of opioid use and that his was one the first police departments in the state to carry Narcan, a nose spray used to counteract the effects of a heroin overdose if administered in time.
But he said that if someone comes to his office with drugs on them, even if that person is looking for help, the person will be arrested. “If they come in with their drugs, their needles, we’re going to arrest them,” he told the crowd. When it comes to recovery, he turns to the experts for help, he said, pointing to Ms. Schuster and Ms. Minahan.
A few people in the audience praised the Chatham Police program, Chatham Cares 4U, which allows addicts to come to the police station in the Tracy Memorial Town Hall on Main Street in the Village of Chatham. Village police will help find a recovery program and will transport the person to that facility. People seeking help will not be arrested or charged with a crime and any drugs they have with them will be taken by the Chatham Police.
Other people talked about websites and programs to help with changing legislation in the state that addresses addiction. There are programs for young people in the county as well. September is recovery month and there is an event planned on the Waterfront in Hudson on September 18.
Other people asked about prescription drugs left in a house that can be stolen, especially after someone dies. The county has medication drop-off boxes at the Sheriff’s Office in Greenport and Hudson Police Department on Warren Street. There will also be a box in the Chatham Police Station, and there will be a statewide medication drop off day in October.
There was question about heroin being mixed with other drugs, including fentanyl, and if that led to any of the local deaths. Mr. Mulrein said that the drugs the police find are tested to determine what’s in them.
As the meeting came to an end, Ms. Leader said that they would continue with more meetings in September.
Mr. Mulrein told the audience, “The sheriff and I are here because we care.”
The county Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 518 828-3344 and the state police can be reached at 518 851-3111.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email