When Albany County Executive Dan McCoy delivered his sixth State of the County Address last week, he announced the next phase in his fight against the opioid crisis.
In the speech, McCoy outlined how the county departments of health and mental health will work with the county’s newly created Opioid Task Force to develop and implement strategies to confront the opioid crisis.
"Too many in our county, residents, have suffered because the major pharmaceutical companies have misled doctors and their patients in the false notion that highly addictive pain prescription pain killers were safe and non-addictive. This is simply not the case, and it's the failure by the pharmaceutical companies to adequately warn and instruct of the dangers have caused lot of loss, pain, suffering in our county. So today, I have instructed our county attorney to begin the process of joining with other counties in our state in litigation at holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for the loss pain and suffering they have caused.” McCoy noted that over the last two years Albany County has worked to educate the public and provide monthly training on the use of the lifesaving medication Narcan.
How serious is the opioid scourge? The heroin treatment unit at the Albany County Jail opened in the fall of 2015. Sheriff Craig Apple: "We can make arrests all day long. It’s not change anything. And it's not gonna probably save anybody. But if we can get to these kids when they're young and let them know the devastating effects of heroin and opioids out there, and alcohol and drinking and driving, you know, I think that's where we can make the difference and that's where we can change lives. But with that said, we can't just give up hope on the people that are addicted now. So we've got places in the jail, like SHARP, but we need more of those places for people to go. You know it's pretty sad that there are so many hurdles that when 10 beds open up, you know, they're taken immediately, and then it takes three or four years to get 10 more beds online, and I know they're working at streamlining things but we need more beds up there. We need more recovery centers, we need more treatment centers, and we have to focus hard on that education. Not a week goes by where I don't get a call asking me, from a loved one, to lock up their loved one because nobody'll take him. Or he's not sick enough. Or they don't have the right insurance. And it's pretty sad when we've gotta put somebody in jail to get treatment. That's despicable."
Apple says more than 80 inmates have graduated from the Sheriff's Heroin Addiction Recovery Program. McCoy expects the new task force will take the battle against opioids out into the streets. "That's where we need to tackle this. And this is where we need to get people involved from just not just churches. Neighborhoods. Neighbors. Because that's the only way we're really gonna get to the root of the problem."