The Rt. 212 Coalition, whose purpose is to link substance abuse resources along Route 212 in Ulster County, presented speakers and outlined available services for drug users in a presentation for about a dozen citizens, mostly from Saugerties, at the Saugerties Senior Center on March 30.
The monthly series, entitled, “The More You Know,” is led by Shayna Micucci and Kasandra Quednau, two women who have sought to combine resources in the contiguous communities of Saugerties, Woodstock and Shandaken along with winding Route 212 corridor.
The speakers included Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra, Jess Robie and Jeanne Eckles from Mobile Mental Health, Juanita Hotchkiss of Ulster Prevention Council, Insurance Navigator Jennifer Galarza, and Mt. Marion Elementary School Principal Carole Kelder.
Sinagra started off the meeting by outlining the police department’s response to addiction. “If there is a genuine concern that someone is using opioids, or other drugs and is obviously on that wrong path,” he said, “call us and say, ‘look, I’m not looking to get anyone arrested, the person needs help.’ I can assure you from the Saugerties Police department, our position would be to get the person help and not arrest.”
The Police can offer 24/7 services, but there is another alternative through Mobile Mental Health that works seven days a week, 1 p.m.-11 p.m. The service began in February 2015 and offers behavioral health services to people with mental health issues, substance abuse or developmental disabilities. When contacted, a team of two people will visit anywhere throughout Ulster County in unmarked cars. “We are mental health,” said Robie, “so if someone is bleeding, you’re worried that someone is physically unstable, we can’t help you.” Eckles, a licensed social worker said their goal is to keep people with mental health issues out of hospitals and, “stable in the community.” Often if a person was hospitalized under psychiatric observation, but sent home within 24 hours, Mobile Mental Health may be contacted through the hospital to follow up on short-term care within their residence.
A person in the audience asked how they were funded. Robie said, “through the County Office of Mental Health.”
Sinagra chimed in. “Just on funding, that is a real issue, there is not enough funding. I met a week ago with Senator (George) Amedore, I met with Congressman (Chris) Gibson’s office, and asked them if we can get funding for some of these programs on a 24-hour basis.” He summed up his beliefs on the subject. “What I want from the community, if we have one message tonight, go out and beat the drums, that we need to start building our mental health system, we need to rebuild our services for people with substance abuse issues.” He said that 30 years ago the system began to come apart and funds were cut. “This is what we are left with,” he said. “We need to redirect our funding into these programs and if we don’t do that we are going to have a real serious problem.” He asked community members to contact their local Government representatives and demand they fund mental health services.
Need for productive outlets
Mount Marion Principal Kelder introduced a Saugerties School District education prevention program titled, “Know More.” It supplies outreach education programs for families, students and the community by offering resources that will help guide children in a positive direction. Audience members complained that older children do not have enough to do within the community and mentioned ideas such as community dance events, or sports with police. Kelder said, “I would love to take some of your ideas back to the community outreach.” She announced that during opening day for Little League on April 23, at Cantine Field, the members of Know More will be holding an Awareness Expo with the goal of bringing substance abuse awareness to as many families as possible.
Sinagra said there’s a scattering of programs for teenagers between the ages of 14-and-21 with the police department, but he agreed much more was needed. “You hit the nail on the head. Kids do look for it and if I was a parent, I would try to find productive outlets and that is what we need.”
Hotchkiss, of Ulster Prevention Council, who has a Masters in Social Work, works as a community prevention specialist throughout Ulster County and directs a popular program titled, Saugerteens, at the Saugerties Library. It came to fruition because teenagers were being asked to leave the library for being rowdy and began hanging outside., “The weren’t banned from the library, but were hanging out,” she said, “not doing much and getting too loud. ” She brought them back in, started a focus group, and the teens gave her valuable information on the Saugerties community from a young person’s point of view. This resulted in a group of 17 that meets every two weeks in the library. Their mission she said is, “To promote healthy choices, friendship and equality.” Their first organized event was a family skate night, that Hotchkiss said was a success.
Galarza who helps people navigate the New York State of Health marketplace said people who have addiction problems without insurance and walk into a hospital or treatment center can get insurance. Audience members complained that addicts were being turned away from treatment. Galarza said, “If you’re an addict and not working, you’re eligible for Medicaid. It’s a 15 minute application process,” she said, and explained that a tax return is not needed, only a social security number and date of birth. “Going to the local county DSS (Department of Social Services) is a very different process than going through the New York State Health for Medicaid, it’s a lot more time consuming, it takes sometimes 40 days to open a case.”