HUDSON — A spike in drug overdoses last week in Columbia County garnered a swift response from addiction recovery advocates and the police.
Seven overdoses, including one death, were reported as part of the spike that lasted from Friday to Saturday.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Department and other police agencies use a digital tool known as ODMap to track and map overdoses. Overdoses are logged into the map designed by the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the online database notifies police agencies when there is a spike in overdoses.
“Our spike threshold is three (overdoses),” Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett said Monday.
With the data in hand, police agencies and their partners are deployed to areas where overdoses are likely to have occurred or will occur. This time, the focus was in and around the village of Chatham.
Police also took action against two suspected drug dealers in Chatham on Saturday.
Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Drug Enforcement and Education Unit and the New York State Police Violent Gangs and Narcotic Enforcement Team raided an apartment at 34 Hudson Ave. in Chatham at about 8 p.m. Two people were taken into custody as a result of the raid.
Charley Cintron, 41, and Kimberly Hines, 49, both of Chatham, were charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, both class B felonies, according to the sheriff’s office.
In addition to the approximately 25 grams of a controlled substance that field tested positive for the presence of heroin and fentanyl, more than $2,000 in cash and items used in the sale and distribution of the drug such as scales and packaging material were seized, according to the sheriff’s office. A child under the age of 15 was also in the home at the time, police said.
That means between 400 and 500 bags of heroin were taken off the street in that arrest, Bartlett said. The drugs have a street value of approximately $3,700, he added.
Stockport Town Judge Malcolm Smalley ordered Cintron to be taken to Columbia County Jail without bail. Hines was released on her own recognizance.
Cintron has priors, and previously served prison time for criminal possession of a weapon, a class D felony,and criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class E felony.
The search warrant for the raid was signed by Columbia County Judge Jonathan Nichols and secured by the Columbia County District Attorney’s office.
Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka declined to say at this time whether the raid was connected to the overdoses. Bartlett said the source of the drugs would have to be determined by toxicology tests.
Meanwhile, Greener Pathways, which offers addiction services in Columbia and Greene counties, and Columbia County Department of Health deployed to Chatham to provide services to addicts. Overdose reversal kits and training and a peer advocate was on hand at the Chatham Firehouse for anyone who wanted to talk about their substance abuse disorder.
Alerts were put out on websites and social media by those agencies to make people aware of the spike in overdoses and what help is out there. Those alerts can be helpful in stopping the spike, said Lori Antonson, acting president and vice president of Columbia County Pathways.
“Nonprofit and the police departments and putting these announcements really help to curb overdoses and does create awareness,” Antonson said. “We basically encourage people in these upticks to seek help for their addiction in terms of treatment and/or through peer advocates, and that is what our helpline is for.”
Antonsen said it can be difficult to predict when a spike will occur — the last one happened a long time ago, she said.
“We don’t ever really know what causes it,” Antonsen said. “It is usually caused by a batch that is tainted with fentantyl or carfentanil, which is most or all of the time is not detectable by the user. The batch with fentanyl doesn’t look any different or can be very deadly on the same dosage that a person uses normally.”
Greener Pathways to Recovery’s Mobile RV Response Unit was available Saturday at the Columbia-Greene Community College. A supply of naloxone kits were on hand and people were trained on how to use them. A peer advocate also was on hand to talk to anyone that is looking to get help.
On Sunday, no new overdoses were reported and the “overdose spike alert” by local nonprofit addiction agencies had ended.
“The Columbia County Overdose Spike Alert has ended with no new suspected overdoses being reported in the last 24 hours,” according to a statement from Greener Pathways on Sunday. “Greener Pathways, along with our many partners in public health, law enforcement and other organizations, continue to monitor the situation closely as we’ve done throughout this alert. Thank you for being vigilant.
There are steps citizens can take to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, according to the county Health Department:
• If you must use, use safely or seek help for your addiction.
• Have access to overdose reversal drug naloxone (If you need a supply of naloxone, call Greener Pathways 518-822-7437. Training on how to use the overdose reversal drug also is available.)
• Let a friend or loved one know where you are.
If person has overdosed and is at the emergency room, they should request to see a peer advocate to come to the hospital, who can assist with access to treatment and treatment facilities, Antonson said.
If they are not ready, they can offer support for them in the meantime,” Antonson said.
Help is available by calling Greener Pathways at 518-822-7437 or Columbia County Pathways to Recovery at 877-467-3365. In an emergency, call 911.
“If someone you know experiences an overdose call 911 immediately,” according to a statement from the county Department of Public Health. “You can be protected by the Good Samaritan Law.”
Minutes matter in an overdose and you can save a life, according to Greener Pathways.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to email@example.com, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.