BALLSTON SPA – An uptick in narcotics overdoses in the area has prompted local law enforcement to take action by teaming with an addiction recovery center to train individuals on how to properly administer naloxone, the medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.
Lillian McCarthy, director of the Healing Springs Recovery Community and Outreach Center, will lead a seminar planned for 7 p.m. Feb. 9 in the Christ Episcopal Church, 15 W. High Street, Ballston Spa. Ballston Spa Police Chief David Bush and Captain Daniel Morley of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department invited McCarthy to present.
“It’s a huge, huge service, to be able to come out and just take a free Narcan training. Because the reality is you might not know anybody that’s using an opiate. But I’d rather see people have the Narcan and never use it, then need it and not have it, McCarthy said. “I just want to make sure that anybody and everybody that’s affiliated with Ballston Spa or the surrounding areas, or anyone that is interested in learning a little bit more about addiction, and what is happening to please come out to educate yourself.”
Grant funding allows for the free naloxone and training.
“From what I understand, the number of overdoses has increased in Ballston Spa and in the surrounding areas,” said McCarthy, whose center is flooded with requests to help about 1,000 people a month, both in person and over the phone. Local data on the spike in overdoses was not immediately available.
“So this is just a way that they are trying to be a little bit more proactive, to be able to assist the community and share some information with them and find out from the community what else we might be able to do to assist as well,” she said.
“You’ve got to be alive if we’re going to help you get into recovery,” McCarthy said.
The center director attributed the local spike in overdoses to the availability of fentanyl and cocaine. Some addicts’ bodies cannot handle the combination, and they overdose, she said.
The nationwide and statewide problem is not unique to the Ballston Spa area, she said.
According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, the opioid epidemic is a public health emergency, with an average of 136 deaths per day and climbing.
Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, chairman of the American Medical Association’s Board of Trustees wrote an article last week that – in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic – the country cannot ignore that illicit fentanyl is fueling the nation’s drug overdose epidemic and is primarily responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 people last year alone.
Mukkamala, who also chairs the AMA’s Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force, cited the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seizing nearly 10 million fake pills last year, many laced with counterfeit fentanyl.
The doctor called for action with evidence-based public health interventions to limit the risks and harms of overdose.
Local statistics on the spike in overdoses were not immediately available. Bush did not return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday, while Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said he was out of the office at a conference.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.