The Oneida County Overdose Response Team has identified a spike in overdose fatalities.
In the last seven days, five fatalities associated with heroin have been reported. Since April 1, there have been five fatalities and 15 overdoses total.
“This spike in overdose fatalities is of grave concern as we simultaneously combat the COVD-19 pandemic,” said Oneida County Executive, Anthony J. Picente, Jr. “There are concerns nationwide that COVID-19 may put people with substance use disorder at greater risk for a fatal overdose. At this highly vulnerable time for all in our community, we are coordinating with essential service providers on our Opioid Task Force to decrease this spike in fatalities by implementing strategies that ensure access to mental health, substance use and overdose prevention services such as Narcan.”
There was an overdose spike alert issued less than a week ago after 20 overdoses and two deaths were reported in 14 days.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, people in recovery may face new challenges with COVID-19. Physical distancing, which remains critical to COVID-19 mitigation, may reduce some of the social support needed for recovery, create barriers to treatment, and decrease the likelihood of observed overdoses making naloxone reversal of overdose less likely and potentially resulting in more fatalities.
Recognizing these challenges, the Oneida County Opioid Task Force is working with Oneida County government to expand access to Narcan and adopt recovery and treatment practices that are compliant with critical social distancing measures that need to remain in place to protect the health of everyone in the community.
A cross-reference guide has been prepared to inform the public of local substance use services and supports that have been modified to meet their needs as they continue to practice social distancing.
Some of these resources include:
• Virtual Narcan trainings.
• Narcan mobile drop-off or mail-in services.
• Virtual peer recovery support.
• Harm reduction services including syringe exchange and fentanyl testing strips.
• Substance use and mental health telehealth services – the CDC has released guidance on the expanded use of telehealth services to provide evaluation and treatment including buprenorphine treatment.
• Prevention of disruptions of methadone/buprenorphine doses through extended prescriptions as recommended by NYSDOH and other harm-reduction experts.
• Outpatient and inpatient treatment services still available with COVID-19 telephone prescreening.
In collaboration with this effort, Midstate EMS is rolling out a voluntary Leave Behind Narcan program sponsored by NYSDOH where first responders can leave behind a Narcan kit with individuals considered at high risk for overdose.
People who use drugs are encouraged to reach out to harm reduction service providers such as the ACR Health Syringe Exchange Program to learn how they can reduce their risk of overdose fatality by learning more flexible options for cutting back drug use and how medication assisted treatment can significantly reduce the risk of overdose.
Narcan is available at various local pharmacies throughout the county and the public can dial 211 or text “opioid” to 898-211 to receive assistance in finding Narcan near them, along with treatment and recovery services.
Always call 911 in a life-threatening situation and do not leave the victim alone. Often, multiple doses of Narcan may be required to reverse and overdose.
As a reminder, the Good Samaritan Law states that anyone who in good faith seeks care for themselves or someone experiencing a life-threatening emergency will not be charged or prosecuted for a drug- or alcohol-related offense including possession of drug paraphernalia, with some exceptions.