New initiative aims to stop overdoses in Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties

October 16, 2020
In The News

KINGSTON, N.Y. — With a “second wave” of COVID-19 on the horizon and the associated social isolation it brings with it, Ellenville Hospital President and CEO Steve Kelley said drug-related deaths in 2020 “very likely will eclipse our worst year this year.”

The Tri-County High Risk Mitigation Team is an initiative aimed at transforming and tracing opioid addiction and working to stop overdoses before they happen in Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties. It was introduced by Kelley on Friday during a press conference at the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center.

State Sen. Jan Metzger, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, county Sheriff Juan Figueroa and Columbia University Professor Timothy Hunt joined U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado in introducing the initiative.

Through the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic grant, the Ellenville Regional Hospital’s Rural Health Network launched the team, which is comprised of an opioid fatality review board, an overdose response team and an overdose prevention team.

The effort hopes to use a data system designed to alert team members when a client in their care is at a heightened risk of relapse or overdose and would trigger a response by peer advocates and others, according to Kelley.

One instance of increased risk Kelley pointed to occurs after a recent release from prison, he said. “But there are other areas that we’re concerned about. We’ll be developing those, and this will be a fluid, evolving program so that we’ll be able to do statistical analysis and develop empirical projections for what will be the greatest indicators and be able to use those to prevent those overdoses.”

Secondly, he said, will be case managers who will work in the field.

The third part “is something that is really very innovative and that’s the Oracle team. And that’s something that’s been pioneered here by our sheriff … and his team has a couple of different functions,” including tracking individuals when they are at their highest risk of overdose.

“These are detectives, and, instead of going out trying to capture criminals, they are going out trying to save lives. It is a completely different approach,” Kelley said.

On Friday, Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, said the effort is focused on the new High Risk Mitigation Team initiative, which employs a Network Engagement Tracker and uses data and predictive factors to trace opioid addiction in the area and stop overdoses before they happen.

“As I travel all across the district and meet with members of the community, there are few conversations as painful as those with parents who have lost a child to overdose," Delgado said. "The opioid crisis is an urgent issue in our area that has grown worse throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we need to do everything we can at all levels of government to address this epidemic.” 

This program is a collaborative project among the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange, Ulster, and Sullivan, Samadhi, the Ulster County Department of Health and Mental Health, Twin County Recovery Services, and People USA. Kelley said increased engagement, tracking and outreach, can provide the necessary intervention and can aid in the prevention of fatal overdoses.