Rensselaer County
Heroin Coalition

Rensselaer County has not been spared from the current opioid crisis that has been devastating the country. Since 2012, Rensselaer County has lost 169 individuals to overdoses (as of 12/31/2019). With the increase of opioidrelated deaths identified in our county, the County Executive felt it was imperative to address this public health crisis with the formation of the Rensselaer County Heroin Coalition in March of 2016.

With the assistance and leadership from the Sheriff and the Public Health Director as co-chairs, the coalition has met routinely and participated in many community wide events. At every meeting, we invite guest speakers to share their expertise in topics that allow the members to gain knowledge, ask questions and network. We also have guest speakers who share their personal experience with addiction, recovery and overdose.

The Coalition has five sub-groups that meet during breakout sessions to develop ideas and proposals within their realm of expertise and interest. They include:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Medical
  • Treatment and Harm Reduction
  • Community Education
  • Data
  • Legislation

The
coalition is comprised of county departments such as: Sheriff, Health Department, Mental Health, Probation, District Attorney’s Office, Employment and Training, Veterans, County Executive’s Office, Social Services, Public Safety, Legislature, Public Defender and Department of Youth. Some of the outside participating organizations are the DEA, NYS Senate, CEO, Law Enforcement agencies, Hudson Valley Community College, Russell Sage, RPI, Siena, Questar, Unity House, local school districts, libraries, addiction and recovery centers, local hospitals, and shelters in our community. There are also participants who are members of the local community in recovery, or who have lost loved ones. The Opioid Crisis does not discriminate in whose life it reaches, which is demonstrated through the diverse membership of the Heroin Coalition.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact the number of both fatal and non fatal overdoses within Rensselaer County. In the first six months of 2020, we have lost 36 individuals, a greater loss than we experienced in all of 2019. 28 of these suspected overdoses occurred between March 16, 2020 (the start of COVID-19 in our County) and June 30th.

Despite concerns for contracting the virus, emergency department visits for overdose treatment at Samaritan increased in this time frame compared to the corresponding months in years prior. We have also been made aware of an increase in requests for the replenishment of Naloxone kits used by community members who are hesitant to enter hospitals during this time.

In response to the COVID-19 social restrictions, the Rensselaer County Health Department implemented a no-contact curbside Naloxone delivery program, Naloxone Now. County residents can text the word “NARCAN” to 21000 to arrange for Naloxone to be delivered to their doorstep. The accompanying Narcan training is provided via telephone to minimize contact between staff and the residents. Fentanyl test strips were also made available to residents through Naloxone Now after an overnight spike in overdoses associated with laced crack cocaine on May 20, 2020.