New Paltz police partner with Catholic Charities to help opiate addicts

Town of New Paltz employees brought village trustees up to speed last week on resources and programs available to aid those suffering from what’s now called opiate use disorder.

When someone struggling with a substance addiction is ready to take a step into treatment, that’s something worth supporting. Thanks to a new partnership between New Paltz police and trained volunteers from Catholic Charities, that’s a decision which can be backed up with action. According to police chief Joseph Snyder, if someone comes to the town police station “in the middle of the night in need of recovery,” officers will call a Catholic Charities number to arrange transportation to a treatment facility. An officer will remain with the individual until a “soft hand-off” to the volunteer driver.

In addition, Snyder told Town Board members at their November 13 meeting, officers will hand out information at overdose sites and volunteers will follow up. Under the state’s good samaritan law, someone who calls police to get help with an overdose cannot be prosecuted in many cases. Illegal drugs will be confiscated, but unless it’s clearly a dealer’s stash, no prosecution will be forthcoming. Phoenix Kawamoto, the town’s community education coordinator, explained that Catholic Charities peer recovery advocates will follow up with those involved in the incident.

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A recovery meeting based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, now offered at Family of New Paltz, is centered on Buddhist principles. Kawamoto said it’s open to anyone struggling with controlling an addiction of any kind, from substance to electronics use.

Snyder and Kawamoto also touched on the programs available through the local rescue squad, which now has staff members certified to train people on the use of naloxone, the drug which stops an overdose by forcing the body to temporarily shut down all opiate receptors. While classes are available, that training is now being delivered whenever and wherever the situation warrants it on a call. Tolerance to these drugs drops off during treatment, meaning that if someone uses again, they will have a higher risk of taking a dangerous overdose. Rescue squad members can deliver that training, as well as teaching rescue breathing on mannequins.

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