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Greene County hard hit by opioid epidemic

Sep 05, 2021 6:00 am

Melanie Lekocevic is reporting for Columbia-Greene Media that Greene County lawmakers Sept. 1, learned from health officials that the county is among the hardest hit statewide by the opioid epidemic. Jason Fredenberg, county director of community services and mental health, and Laura Churchill, deputy director of Greene County Public Health, presented the county’s response to the health crisis to the full Legislature. “Unfortunately, Greene County is not doing well with regard to the opioid epidemic,” Fredenberg said. The county was among those hardest hit in the state by the “opioid burden,” which considers overdose deaths, nonfatal emergency room visits and opioid abuse and dependence, according to 2018 data from the state Department of Health. A recent study found that Greene County's opioid burden was 33 percent higher than the rest of the Capital Region, and 45 percent higher than the state as a whole. Fredenberg said the number of overdose fatalities in the county has been on the rise in recent years. “In 2019, there were nine, in 2020 there were 14, and in 2021, as of July 31, we were already up to 11, so that number is increasing each year,” he said. The number of overdoses, fatal and nonfatal, has also been rising. “Many people in our community here in Greene County are being affected and their addictions may have started or been escalated by prescription drugs,” Fredenberg said. “There is a very high incidence of prescribing dangerous prescription drugs in Greene County.” He said the county is addressing the addiction problem in a variety of ways, with prevention a key action area. “We don’t have a recovery outreach center in Greene County,” Churchill said. “Stigma — when people feel that they’re being judged they will not seek services and that’s a huge, huge barrier in this county.” The county does not have a detox facility or methadone treatment program. “We don’t even have pain management, so somebody with legitimate pain who needs narcotics, we don’t have that service in Greene County so people sometimes use illicit substances when they are in pain,” Churchill said. She urged legislators to help destigmatize drug addiction and view it as a chronic disease. Read the full story at HudsonValley360 [dot] com.

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