ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY-TV) – In honor of International Overdose Awareness Day, County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., Sheriff Robert Maciol and District Attorney Scott McNamara announced the launch of a new website for the Oneida County Opioid Task Force and announced new initiatives including street engagement teams and emergency Narcan cabinets aimed at preventing overdose deaths.
“Today we remember those lives lost too soon because of drug overdoses in our community and acknowledge the profound grief experienced by the family and friends they’ve left behind,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr., who serves as co-chair of the Opioid Task Force. “It is especially tragic when we know that those deaths could have been prevented. Thankfully, the partnerships we have formed through our Opioid Task Force, and the commitment we have made to preventing further loss, is making a difference every single day.”
Picente announced the launch of the Opioid Task Force’s new website to provide information and resources for its members and the community with the mission of “Using Data, Collaboration and Innovation to Save Lives.” The website, designed and operated by New Hartford-based firm Trainor, will feature member events for Overdose Awareness Day this week. It can be accessed at www.ocopioidtaskforce.org.
Also announced, were two new Task Force initiatives:
- Street Engagement Teams: Rapid response multi-agency teams formed to do boots-on-the-ground outreach and engagement in areas where data and community members have identified as “hot spots” with issues of mental health, substance use, homelessness and/or unmet social service needs.
- These teams will seek to build one-on-one connections while providing access to “street medicine” where a person can receive same-day, low-barrier medication for substance use, medicine for acute care needs, Hepatitis C testing and treatment, COVID-19 vaccination, Naloxone, on-demand counseling with licensed behavioral health providers, as well as linkages to other support services such as food and housing.
- Outreach teams will be deployed to Oneida Square in Utica and in Camden to start, with plans to replicate the model and deploy teams to other high-risk communities as the need arises.
- Narcan Emergency Cabinets: Oneida County has purchased 100 Narcan Emergency Cabinets to distribute to various entities and local businesses. These cabinets, which are very similar to publicly-sited Automated External Defibrillator (AED) machines, are secure metal units that each contain two doses of Narcan nasal spray along with instructions for its use.
- When appropriately deployed in specific locations with high rates of opioid overdose, the units are intended to increase access to naloxone during the time of a life-threatening emergency/suspected opioid overdose.
- Interested entities can apply to receive a cabinet by filling out an online form. Priority distribution will be given to sites that are located in areas of high opioid overdose/burden.
“The Opioid Task Forces continues to institute new initiatives and programs to stem the deadly tide of drug overdose death,” said Oneida County Sheriff Robert M. Maciol, also a co-chair of the Task Force. “We’ve realized all along that arrests alone will not solve this issue, that’s why we are always searching for new and innovative ways to tackle opioid addiction and prevent needless death.”
Progress was reported on other on-going Task Force initiatives as well, including:
- Post-Overdose Peer Outreach Program
- Through a partnership with ACR Health, within 72 hours of a reported overdose in Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), Peer Recovery Advocates with “lived experience” contact survivors directly, often with home visits. They offer a direct path to treatment and overdose education and other support services.
- Since 2019, the Task Force has linked 133 overdose survivors to treatment and/or other support services.
- Leave Behind Naloxone Program
- The Task Force’s Overdose Response Team continues to work closely with Midstate EMS to expand participation in its Leave Behind Naloxone Program which allows first responders to distribute “leave behind” naloxone kits on the scene of an overdose for individuals at high risk for future overdoses.
- Year-to-date, there have been 288 overdose reversals by first responders.
- The Task Force announced that the Rome and Camden Fire Departments are now participating in the program, joining the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, Utica Fire Department and Whitesboro Police Department.
- Overdose Care Kits
- The Task Force is distributing overdose care kits that can be disseminated to people at high-risk of overdose. The kits include some basic supplies and overdose prevention resources that can also help facilitate conversations and engagement.
- The kits are designed to save lives and communicate care and understanding to drug users and to open doors to engagement and treatment services.
“Engagement and support are the keys to easing the pain and suffering of those in the throes of drug addiction and the people who love them,” said District Attorney Scott McNamara, also a Task Force co-chair. “This Task Force is committed to saving lives through collaborative prevention, treatment and recovery efforts that cast a lifeline to those in desperate need.”
International Overdose Awareness Day was initiated in 2001 in Australia, and the annual campaign has taken place each August 31st since, with the goal of calling attention to the issue of drug overdoses, highlighting successful prevention methods and support programs, honoring those who have died without stigma and recognizing the grief of their loved ones.
Formed in 2016, the Oneida County Opioid Task Force is a large cross-sector partnership of community partners that meets quarterly and is specifically focused on addressing the opioid epidemic and other drug issues in the county. It works toward its goal through specialized teams that focus on the areas of overdose response, prevention, treatment and recovery.
You can view today’s press conference here: https://fb.watch/7K15raJGv3/