Those confronting their drug addiction will have an angel on their side under a new program featuring cooperation between the Woodstock Police Department and Rt. 212 Coalition. Under the new Woodstock Outreach Initiative Program, anyone entering the police station between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. to seek help with an opiate addiction will be screened and assisted by volunteers called angels, explained Supervisor Jeremy Wilber as he introduced the program at a special meeting April 25.
“If this can save anybody, it’s worth all the work and effort,” Rt. 212 Coalition co-organizer Kasandra Quednau said. The group was founded to fight back against the heroin epidemic that has reached Woodstock and surrounding communities by working with towns and organizations to make services accessible to those struggling with addiction. All too often, addicts or their friends or loved ones do not seek help for fear of police involvement and arrest, but they need not worry. Under provisions of the state’s Good Samaritan Law, those seeking help will not be arrested for minor drug or alcohol offenses.
“If you or anyone you know in the town of Woodstock appears to be suffering from an overdose, please, do not waste time trying to hide evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia. Call 679-2422, Woodstock Dispatch, immediately and report a drug overdose,” said Police Chief Clayton Keefe, who added trained personnel will administer Narcan. The drug immediately reverses the effect of an opiate overdose if given quickly.
“Time is of the essence. Call 679-2422 immediately,” Keefe said. If anyone seeking help for addiction is in possession of drugs or paraphernalia, those items will be seized and destroyed, but the person will not be arrested on minor drug charges.
However, that immunity from arrest has its limitations. Police must check for outstanding warrants and officers may charge individuals suspected of selling drugs.
If the person seeking treatment is under 18, parents must be contacted, something that is “too bad,” said Wilber, but is required. The town hopes to implement the program in mid-June once volunteers are trained, Wilber said.
“What we are counting on is there’s enough people in this community who want to do something about it and help,” Wilber said of the heroin epidemic that took the lives of three area youths in recent months.
“This is one of the worst drug addiction periods we’ve ever come across,” Keefe said.
Upon intake, the police will contact a volunteer angel and, working with the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, or PAARI, will try to place the person in a rehab facility. PAARI is a nonprofit organization founded to help police departments work with those addicted to opiates rather than arrest them. PAARI is modeled after an initiative developed in 2015 by the Gloucester, Mass., police department in which addicts who come to the police station for help are taken to a hospital and placed in a recovery program. PAARI helps police departments across the country develop similar policies and tries to take the stigma away from addiction, focusing on it as a disease instead of a crime.
Unfortunately, the bulk of treatment facilities are located out of state, said Rt. 212 Coalition co-founder Shayna Micucci, meaning travel can make recovery costly even when the treatment center is covered by insurance. To that end, Family of Woodstock is helping establish a scholarship fund. The Rt. 212 Coalition is organizing a vigil June 11 that will serve as a fundraiser, with details to come soon.
Those interested in becoming a volunteer angel must be reliable, non-judgmental, flexible and compassionate. A valid driver license is a must and volunteers must be on call for at least one six-hour shift per week. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. When on call, volunteers must be located within 20 minutes of the police department. If interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Training will include a three-hour orientation and six additional hours at a schedule to be determined.
“In the long run, you’re going to be saving this community lives,” Councilwoman Cathy Magarelli said.
“We’re looking for volunteers. But if you can’t volunteer, we’re looking for donations,” said Councilman Bill McKenna.
The Rt. 212 Coalition will hold an informational session about the program Monday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m. at a location in Woodstock to be determined.
The group will also have training in administering Narcan Monday, May 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, 1682 Glasco Turnpike.
More parking drama
The Town Board reopened a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the Vehicle and Traffic Law establishing so-called Critical No-Parking Zones after officials discovered a section of Ohayo Mountain Road was omitted. No one spoke, so the hearing was closed and board will act on the matter at a future meeting.
The town is attempting to tackle a parking problem caused by increasing popularity of such places as Overlook Mountain and swimming holes along Millstream and Ohayo Mountain roads. Increased illegal parking has created a safety hazard, but signs and expanded no-parking zones have failed to solve the problem.
Areas where the fine for parking violations will be $150 instead of $25 include Meads Mountain Road from the Church on the Mount to a point near MacDaniel Road.
Nearly the entire length of Millstream Road and Ohayo Mountain Road from Tannery Brook Road to Broadview Road will be included in the steeper fines to deal with the popular swimming areas.
Cars in the critical areas may be towed with a $300-$500 recovery fee, though Wilber said he hopes that is a last resort.