Counties expand services to fight addiction

HUDSON–Recent developments in confronting local substance abuse—from the opioid crisis to alcoholism—include a new emergency room resource, drop-off boxes and the hiring of an addiction recovery coordinator by the Columbia-Greene Addiction Coalition.

Greener Pathways, a mobile program of Twin County Recovery Services, began supplying on-call recovery coaches for Columbia Memorial Health’s emergency room in September, according to Carl Quinn, Greener Pathways’ Assistant Director.

Hospital staff ask people who arrive in the emergency room with a substance crisis if they would like a recovery coach. An affirmative response results in a call to Greener Pathways, and one of its three on-call coaches comes to the patient. In a phone interview October 8 Mr. Quinn said that during the program’s first two weeks a coach “felt it went very well and is hoping to continue contact” with the people who request the service.

Meanwhile, at both the Hannaford’s supermarket in Valatie and in the lobby of the County Sheriff’s Office in Greenport, there are boxes where one can drop off drugs—legal and illegal, prescription and over the counter, used and partially-used—and leave, no questions asked. Patsy Leader, Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Kinderhook, reported on September 26 that the drop off box at Hannaford gets full so quickly that it had to be emptied twice in a 40-hour period. She said people of all ages from youth to senior citizens have told her that they are afraid that using the sheriff’s office will lead to their arrest.

In addition, the Columbia-Greene Addiction Coalition (CGAC) has hired Danielle Hotaling as addiction recovery coordinator, and she started in that position the week of October 1, Mr. Quinn reported. She will report to Michael Cole, Columbia County director of human services, and Maggie Graham, Greene County director of community services, who are responsible to their respective county legislatures.

The CGAC grew out of the need to connect people affected by substance abuse with the many services in the two counties that might help them, Mr. Cole has said. In spring 2017, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors and the Greene County Legislature each called for action in response to the opioid abuse crisis. Now the CGAC is leading that effort, with the “support, direction and authority of both” county legislative bodies. Mr. Cole and Ms. Graham are co-chairs of the coalition.

Although CGAC’s name includes “addiction,” its focus includes not only people addicted to substances but also people who occasionally use or binge on substances in dangerous amounts, Mr. Cole said by phone September 13. But the CGAC is only concerned with substances like drugs and alcohol, not addictions to food or activities like gambling.

“It’s hard to find a succinct word that encompasses all,” Mr. Cole said. “Addiction is word that’s commonly understood.” But for substance abuse, “one doesn’t need to be an addict to be at risk.”

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