WILTON — Capt. Dan Morley of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office said the department is forced to send someone who is battling a drug addiction outside of the county, as there are no ambulatory detox centers in the Spa County.
“We need to make it easier for someone to get help,” he said on Friday at U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s round table discussion at the Wilton Fire Department on how to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic.
Morley was one of more than 20 law enforcement, elected officials and community leaders Stefanik gathered from Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties to discuss the issue.
Saratoga County experienced eight overdose deaths in 2016, as well as 112 hospital-treated overdoses and 159 instances in which naloxone was used to reverse an overdose, according to a state Health Department report issued in January.
Morley said the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office meets with families after they receive an overdose call to let them know about the resources that are available. They also offer an opioid overdose prevention program to train people on how to use Narcan, the trade name for the drug naloxone, which can reverse the effect of an overdose.
“We want to connect those in our county with the resources they need,” he said. “Hopefully it’s making a difference.”
Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said the county’s drug treatment court has been active for more than 15 years, resulting in more than 350 graduates.
“We increase the number of graduations we have each year, so many people are going through it successfully,” she said. “There’s also a ripple effect with those 350 graduates, because they have family members, friends, and employers who have been impacted.”
Heggen said despite offering the drug treatment court, not everyone chooses to take that path.
“We offer treatment court in almost every instance we can, but some choose the sentence,” she said. “They miss an amazing opportunity.”
In April, Saratoga Hospital received $250,000 to expand a program that helps those addicted to opioids to safely reduce their use, with the goal of ultimately ending their addiction.
Judy Moffitt, co-chair of Friends of Recovery in Warren and Washington counties, said the organization, which supports those in recovery as well as their families, is working with Saratoga County Correctional Facility to provide a resource table in the waiting room.
“I go to Warren County Jail every weekend to support a female inmate, because she has no one to support her,” she said. “While I’m there, I’m passing out my card to family members in the waiting room.
“It would be nice to have a face there.”
Moffitt, a chemistry teacher at South Glens Falls High School, said she sees the impact that addiction has on children.
“There should be a mandate that all school staff receive education on the disease of addiction,” she said. “The kid whose head is on the desk isn’t necessarily a bad kid — his father may have been arrested the night before.”
In addition to providing resources to an addict, Moffitt said, family members need resources as well.
“Family members are the change agents and if you help them, I can guarantee those jails would be empty,” she said. “This epidemic won’t stop until you get to the root of the cause.
“There needs to be more care for individuals before they develop this disease.”
Tedra Cobb, the Democratic congressional candidate who is running against Stefanik in the Nov. 6 general election, said the opioid crisis should be addressed by “embedding treatment in the community and treating addiction like a chronic disease.”
“We need to ensure that a range of effective services are available on demand to all residents, and that our first responders have the resources, training and tools to effectively respond,” she said in a statement. “We must hold the drug manufacturers accountable for misleading medical providers and understating the dangers of their products to the public.”
Stefanik said while the federal government has secured more than $4 billion in funding to combat the heroin and opioid addiction, there’s still more work that must be done.
“There’s a lot more to do when it comes to prevention, adequate treatment, and making sure rural communities have that long-term recovery, care and bed space available,” she said. “This is an issue I’ve been very active on, because I hear about it from my constituents.
“The number of fatalities has been increasing, so we need to make sure there’s federal funding to combat this.”
Stefanik said her goal is to build partnerships between federal, state, county and local elected officials to address the opioid issue.
“We need to take a holistic approach to this,” she said. “Awareness is key and we need to get more people in on the conversation.”