Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced on Dec. 23 that his office will soon be launching an information campaign to raise awareness about opioid deaths in Orange County, and to assist drug-abuse prevention efforts in the area.
The campaign will involve literature to be distributed, among other places, to schools and to police departments, for further distribution to the public.
In addition, the campaign will involve several billboards situated around the County, which will publicize the dangers of opioid abuse and will provide contact information for affected people to engage treatment services.
Twenty percent increase in opioid-related deaths in Orange County
A report released on Dec. 17, by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reflected a significant increase in the first half of 2020 in the number of deaths related to the abuse of synthetic opioids. Parts of New York State reported up to a 49 percent increase in synthetic-opioid-related deaths, while other states reported increases of greater than 50 percent.
In Orange County, the results were better, but the county still reported a nearly 20 percent increase in opioid-related deaths in the first ten months of 2020, as compared to the same period in 2019.\
Those increases coincide with local and nationwide efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
The impact of bail reform and COVID-19
“Before last winter, we had been making progress in the fight against opioid abuse and overdose deaths,” Hoovler said in the press release detailing the initiative. “Unfortunately, beginning early in 2020, we were hit with a two-fisted assault on that progress: bail reform and COVID-19. The State’s misguided bail reform legislation, effective Jan. 1, 2020, released most offenders from jail, without any consideration of bail, resulting in some people in desperate need of drug-abuse treatment being released before they could be connected to life-saving services. In addition, starting in the spring, the COVID outbreak kept people cooped up in their homes, which may have increased the level of stress that some opioid abusers faced.
“In addition, measures taken to stem the pandemic have, to some extent, made it more difficult for people to obtain or to engage in needed drug treatment,” the district attorney added. “The result of both of those factors has been an uptick in opioid-related overdose deaths. Hopefully, the campaign that we announce today will help to better get the word out to people, to prevent them from abusing opioids in the first place, and to assist those who are already using to connect themselves to appropriate treatment.”
Those in immediate need of substance abuse services can call the Orange County Crisis Call Center by dialing 311. The Crisis Call Center can also assist with mental health, developmental disability and rape-crisis services.