During the months of January and February, Broome County reported three fatal overdoes each month. During the month of March, Broome County reported 12 deaths, including six in a 10day period, prompting officials to declare the State of Emergency. Since then, the number of deaths has dropped back in line with pre-emergency levels.
As part of the State of Emergency, County Executive Jason Garnar, District Attorney Steve Cornwell, Office of Emergency Services Director Michael Ponticiello, and Public Health Director Rebecca Kaufman created a Drug Overdose Response Team to monitor and respond to the “spike” in overdoses (fatal and non-fatal).
As part of this effort, specific scenarios and criteria have been developed to identify an irregular spike in drug overdoses including historical data, trends, frequency, potency, etc.
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. 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.
The team will consider and implement all possible response strategies to combat a spike in overdoses including, but not limited to: Education and Training; Harm Reduction; Intervention; Law Enforcement; and Public Information/Messaging.
The team will evaluate every situation in which a spike has occurred and determine whether a Public Health Alert, or any advisory, will be issued.
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.
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.
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.