Fentanyl emergency lifted in Broome County, ‘Drug Overdose Response Team’ formed

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BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — Broome County Executive Jason Garnar on Thursday lifted the state of emergency declared on March 27 that followed a significant spike in fentanyl-related overdose deaths.

The county reported three fatal overdoses in both January and February, and then 12 deaths in March. Officials said six of those deaths were in a 10-day period.

Officials reported Thursday the number of overdose deaths has since dropped and is back line with pre-emergency levels.

The county added that a Drug Overdose Response Team has been created to closely monitor overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal.

“In the event of a spike in overdoses, the team will convene an emergency meeting to evaluate the situation and implement a plan to reduce the harm to the public,” officials wrote in a news release. “The team members will meet and coordinate with colleagues in government, law enforcement, the medical community, and public/private organizations to help assess the situation and develop the appropriate response.”

According to the county, the team’s response will include “Education and Training; Harm Reduction; Intervention;
Law Enforcement; and Public Information/Messaging.”

Officials say the group will also determine if a public health alert or advisory should be issued.

The team includes County Executive Jason Garnar, District Attorney Steve Cornwell, Office of Emergency Services Director Michael Ponticiello and Public Health Director Rebecca Kaufman.

Garnar’s office released the following additional information Thursday:

Strategies Implemented to Reduce Deadly Drug Overdoses

Education/ Public Information Messaging

The Broome County Health Department will work with the New York State Department of
Health of on any trainings, education, or information that is available for the public. BCHD will
work with media partners including print, television and radio on PSA and messaging in the
community. Social media and listservs will be used to disseminate information about trainings,
treatment providers and where to go for help. The Health Department will use the 211 service
and make sure they have updated information about services available in the community. They
will also work with treatment providers, grass roots organizations and members of BOAC as
needed to share and disseminate pertinent information.

The Broome County Office of Emergency Services Coordinated the county’s multi-departmental
response to the crisis, including meetings, monitoring, logistics/resources, inter-governmental
collaboration, notifications and other critical communications. OES also facilitated necessary
reporting to New York State government, including initial SOE declaration and orders, situation
reports, updates, and renewals of emergency orders. Finally, they provided crisis-specific
briefings and updates to Emergency Medical Services agencies, particularly regarding enhanced
communication requirements with other agencies. Going forward, OES will serve as the primary
alerting/notification agency for members of the team in the event that its spike criteria are met.

Harm Reduction

Strategies that target harm reduction messaging and education will be utilized by working with
grassroots organizations and community organizations who focus on harm reduction such as;
Truth Pharm & Southern Tier AIDS and through New York State department of Health. The
Health Department will do this by obtaining Narcan kits as needed, hosting emergency Narcan
trainings and educating the public on harm reduction strategies. The Broome County Office of
Emergency Services also provided and is providing training in overdose recognition and
response to additional county employees, as well as providing additional naloxone kits.

Intervention

Peer Counselors have reached out to active users to offer treatment options which includes
people who have recently overdosed or are facing a drug related charge.

The Drug Court Team, Treatment Alternative to Prosecution program, and ACBC have met with
participants to warn them of the current risks and to counsel them about seeking help, especially
those who may have friends that recently died from a fentanyl overdose.

Law Enforcement

In fatal and non-fatal overdose cases, drugs found at the scene are being sent to a specialized lab
for expedited testing so that the specific type of drugs involved can be identified scientifically,
which will help track the deadly drugs and help identify the source of the supply. In addition, in
all fatal overdose cases, toxicology is also being sent to the lab on an expedited basis for testing
with result available within two weeks — which previously took up to a year.

Police are treating overdose scenes as crime scenes and the DA’s office is assisting in
investigations by gathering additional evidence to help identify the source of the supply.

Uniform and detailed reporting procedures have been adopted, and a countywide reporting form
is being used by all agencies. The new procedures will assist police and prosecution in efforts to
prosecute dangerous drug dealers for selling drugs mixed with fentanyl.

There is an increased priority for prosecuting (and investigating) fentanyl drug dealers.

Additional police resources have been provided the New York State Police and local law
enforcement agencies for random Drugged Driver Checkpoints, intended to locate drugged
drivers and those transporting narcotics throughout Broome County.

Funding has been offered through STOP-DWI and the DA’s office for Advanced Roadside
Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) training for local police to increase their ability to
identify drugged drivers.

Funding has also been secured by the DA’s office for training Drug Recognition Experts who are
needed to arrest and prosecute drugged drivers.

Additional confidential strategies are being developed and implemented to prevent the flow of
illegal drugs into Broome County.

Nicky Hickling

Nicky Hickling

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