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Catholic Charities Receiving Funds to Fight Opioids in Sullivan, Ulster
By DAN PIETRAFESA

Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange and Sullivan may receive up to $4 million in federal grant money over two years to help combat the opioid crisis in Sullivan and Ulster counties.

Sullivan and Ulster counties were identified as two of 16 high-need counties in New York state and will receive $2 million as their share in year one of $25.2 million in the federal grant funding to add and expand addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services in the 16 counties, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sept. 14.

Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange and Sullivan may receive $2 million in the second year of the intended two-year initiative. The amount will depend on the funding provided by the federal government, according to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS).

“The plan that we have and grant parameters are fairly well-defined,” Dr. Dean Scher, CEO of Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange and Sullivan, told CNY. “The goal of this grant is to partner with existing health care providers and other agencies so that we can begin to engage opioid users and do preliminary aspects of treatment with the goal of helping them connect with existing resources.”

This is the most recent legislation signed by Cuomo in his attempt to fight the opioid epidemic. In April, Cuomo approved legislation investing more than $200 million to battle the opioid crisis. In June 2016, he signed into law a bill limiting initial opioid drug prescriptions to seven days.

Catholic Charities Orange and Sullivan also was one of 10 agencies in New York State to receive an additional $100,000 this year in funding for prevention services in Sullivan County.

“It will help us expand our presence to a much younger group – elementary school children in Sullivan County,” Dr. Scher said. “What we’re learning is kids as young as 11 and 12 are beginning to experiment with opioids.”

Dr. Scher said Catholic Charities is present with prevention services in high schools and middle schools in Orange and Sullivan counties and hopes to expand these services.

“Our presence in Ulster County is new and is specific to this grant. I hope we will begin to expand our presence in Ulster County with prevention services,” he said.

“Catholic Charities’ expertise is in working within school systems and communities.”

The opioid crisis has become a growing epidemic in New York state and across the United States. In the United States, opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999, and 33,091 deaths resulted from opioid overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The New York state Department of Health-County Opioid Quarterly Report shows in 2016 there were 1,238 opioid overdose deaths, 6,621 outpatient emergency department visits for opioid overdoses and 1,855 hospitalizations for opioid overdoses in the state, not including New York City.

In Sullivan County, there were 14 opioid overdose deaths in 2016, compared with 19 in 2015, and 76 outpatient emergency department visits were reported in 2016, almost doubling the 40 in 2015. Ulster had 27 and 36 opioid overdose deaths in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Outpatient emergency department visits for opioid overdoses increased from 100 in 2015 to 105 in 2016.

Ulster also had an increase in clients being admitted to OASAS-certified chemical dependence programs, 834 in 2015 to 951 in 2016, while Sullivan had a decrease, 556-538.

“What Governor Cuomo did is a step toward improving access to treatment and improving early intervention and prevention in New York,” Dr. Scher said. “Prevention is a best form of treatment.’’

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