County looks to reduce under-age vaping

HUDSON–Juvenile vaping, nicotine cessation, Narcan in schools, spreading service providers around the County, and housing for people with special needs, received attention at the Columbia County Community Services Board meeting Wednesday, May 30.

Supervisor Sarah Sterling (D-Hudson, 1st Ward) expressed the need for enforced legislation to stop the sale of electronic cigarettes to under-age persons. Juuls, the name for a kind of nicotine vaporizers that are is easy to use discretely and come in many flavors, are popular with teenagers. “They think they aren’t smoking. But they’re getting as much nicotine as in a cigarette.”

Dan Almasi, county deputy director of Community Services, announced the start of a nicotine cessation group “for people invested in having a quit date.” Participants follow a program that includes quitting early in it. For people “considering whether to quit”, different services are available.

The meeting also took up a topic related to the opioid addiction crisis. Despite the consensus that schools need Narcan–the brand name for the opioid overdose medication naloxone–on hand in case someone overdoses, only one of the county’s six school districts was reported adequately prepared: the Hudson City School District (HCSD).

In the other districts, “schools aren’t stocking enough Narcan. They have only one or two doses,” reported Cristy Tutt, county planner for the Department of Human Services (DHS).

“I’ll have to remind the school districts,” said Michael Cole, director of Human Services.

“I have to congratulate the HCSD,” said a woman attending the meeting. “They have Narcan stocks in all the nurses’ offices. And many staff members are well trained.”

Mr. Cole also announced that interviews had taken place for the position of coordinator of the Columbia-Greene Addiction Coalition.

On another matter, some service providers reported operating or plans to establish satellite offices around the county to supplement their main offices in Hudson. Claire Parde, executive director of the Health Care Consortium, Inc., announced the “out-stationing” of health insurance navigators and New York Connects to Copake, Canaan and possibly more places in the near future. With these satellites, “We expect people to come less to the” Hudson main office, she said.

In other business:

• Robert Gibson, county commissioner of Social Services, said when the Galvan Civic Motel opens, he plans to put service providers at the motel for the residents. Ultimately, he said, he hopes to have them also at the other motels where the Department of Social Services lodges clients who need homes. Mr. Cole noted that the DHS now has satellite mental health clinics in five of the school districts in the county and hopes to open one at Bliss Tower. Most of the out stations operate part time on specified days a week, using existing staff

• Another way to spread access to services to more people who could benefit from them, Mr. Gibson and Mr. Cole indicated, is by improving public transportation. Classes that prepare for careers and the Workforce New York Career Center are at Columbia Greene Community College. But the bus connecting Hudson and Philmont with the college runs only three times a week. Mr. Gibson said that a bus driver had asked whether the schedule could be tweaked so that “kids can get to summer programs”

• Beth Schuster, executive director of Twin County Recovery Services, Inc., reminded the meeting that she has been looking “for six to eight years” to move the halfway houses Twin County provides for individuals recovering from addiction. Currently the men’s residence is on Hudson’s Columbia Street, and the women’s residence is in Catskill. In these locations, “we don’t have room to expand or add community services,” she said. Ms. Schuster keeps exploring possibilities for new sites

• Mr. Cole announced that Greenport Gardens Apartments will have its opening ceremony Tuesday, June 19, at 10 a.m. Twenty-eight of its units will be for individuals with mental health issues and 38 will be “income based.” Mr. Cole called the complex “beautiful!”

The next meeting of the Columbia County Community Services Board will take place Wednesday, September 26, at noon, at 325 Columbia Street in Hudson.

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