Ulster fatal overdoses nearly doubled in 2020; new funding announced

A release today from Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said opioid-related fatalities increased 94 percent in 2020, largely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a total of 64 deaths.

This surge in opioid-related fatalities mirrors a nationwide trend. This week, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that opioid-related fatalities reached its highest number ever recorded in over a 12-month span.

The release said that Ulster’s overdose fatality rate — meaning the number of fatal overdoses compared to the total number of overdoses — dropped from 20 percent in 2018 to 13.5 percent in 2020.

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Also today, Ryan announced that the county has received $1.4 million in new grant funding towards opioid use prevention in the last few weeks. Including:

  • $900,000 from the Bureau of Justice Assistance for the Sheriff’s Department. It aims to keep residents from falling through the existing treatment gaps by extending the County’s High-Risk Mitigation Team into the City of Kingston – where close to 40 percent of the county’s overdoses occur. The City of Kingston High Risk Mitigation Team will be made up of two peers and a case manager (social work credentials), embedded within the Ulster County Sheriff’s ORACLE team, to respond to overdose and individuals struggling with opioid use disorder.
  • $500,000 from the National Association of County and City Health Officials for the county’s Department of Health Healing Communities Division. This will allow will allow Samadhi Recovery Center in Kingston to become a 24/7 center. Currently, it is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. This funding will allow for a fully-staffed 24/7 Harm Reduction Recovery Center and linkage to a quick response MOUD (medication for opioid use disorder) tele-medication program. It will also fund Community Services of the Hudson Valley to continue a harm reduction program that otherwise would have closed due to a lack of state funding. Additionally, it will create a student-driven, peer-to-peer prevention messaging campaign, with creative elements for use in all media to substantially reduce the demand for opioids and other harmful substances over time.

The release said the county has now dedicated $2.7 million dollars over the past two years in opioid prevention spending and grant funding.

“Now more than ever, in the wake of the compounding challenges COVID-19 has caused, it is critical that we do all that we can to ramp up and prioritize combating the opioid epidemic,” said Ryan. “These funds will go a long way in helping to educate the public, provide needed treatment and support, and to ultimately save lives. Ulster County will not just talk about the issue, we are taking real action and putting funding behind stopping an epidemic that has ripped apart too many families in our community.”

“For the first time in Ulster County, law enforcement will have civilian partners embedded to confront this epidemic. Families want action from their government and law enforcement to combat this epidemic that is continuing to rip apart our communities,” said Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa. “Together with County Executive Ryan, we are setting up an alert system with a user-friendly app to better communicate the risk to people in addition to the work we are doing in the Sheriff’s Office to assist those who have overdosed and help them get treatment, and to tailor a program with the impacted families. Tackling the opioid epidemic is one of my priorities as Sheriff, and I am thankful to have so many partners in Ulster County Government and local law enforcement to combat this crisis.”

According to the county press release, between 2015 and 2018, there was a 93 percent increase in opioid fatalities-the second highest rate of any county in New York State outside of New York City. In 2019, fatalities decreased by 41.1 percent. “Last year’s opioid fatality increase is largely due to the ripple effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” states the release.

This week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that opioid-related fatalities reached its highest number ever recorded in over a 12-month span.

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