County awards over $2M in grants to community programs working to prevent opioid addiction and to help addicts

— Photo from Albany County Executive’s Office
Nicole MacFarland speaks at Friday’s press conference about the importance of the $87,070 grant Senior Hope Counseling received while officials listen; from left Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, Deputy Chairwoman Wanda Willingham, Chairwoman Joanne Cunningham, and Legislator Susan Pedo.

ALBANY COUNTY — Albany County has received more money from drug companies in opioid settlements that it is using for community programs to aid addicts and stem addiction.

The $2,347,570 in grants were announced at a press conference on Friday.

The 14 chosen projects include programs to train and maintain Certified Recovery Peer Advocates and Harm Reduction Educators, new policies to reduce the use of opioids for pain management at hospitals, enhanced signs and information at pharmacies regarding opioid risks and treatment options, research into the obstacles faced by people trying to recover, and support services such as transportation and housing help for those leaving inpatient treatment.

The funding is for initiatives meant to “ensure a long-term community recovery that will help curb the cycle of addiction,” according to a release from the county executive’s office.

“The opioid epidemic has had detrimental effects on the entirety of Albany County, in particular, the neighborhoods in my district such as North Albany and West Hill …,” said Albany County Legislature Deputy Chairwoman Wanda Willingham in the release.

“Last year, there were over 126 overdose deaths in Albany County,” she went on. “It’s heartbreaking and it’s time to derive new ways to save lives. Unfortunately, studies show lower treatment rates amongst minority communities, making the need for local, community-based resources that much more important.”

“The opioid epidemic represents one of the most pressing public health crises of our time,” said Daniel McCoy, the county’s executive, in the release. “I’m proud that Albany County was one of the first in the State to hold manufacturers and distributors accountable for the damage caused by these highly addictive opioids.

“No amount of money will change what has happened but these funds will empower local organizations to continue their vital work to address the root causes of opioid addiction and support those in recovery.”

These agencies are receiving $175,000 each: Second Chance Opportunities, Healthy Capital District, Albany Medical College/Center I, Colonie EMS I, Colonie EMS II, Addiction Care Centers of Albany, Catholic Charities Care Coordination, IPH formerly Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, and Hive of Hope.

Additionally, Albany Medical College/Center II received $170,321; Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Collaboratory got $166,080; Lincoln Pharmacy got $174,208; Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network New York received $174,891; and Senior Hope Counseling got $87,070.

Stephen Giordano, the county’s mental health commissioner who co-chairs its Opiate Task Force, said he looks forward to working with each of the grant recipients in “a new shared community effort to reverse the trends of the epidemic.”

“In every corner of every community in Albany County we remain challenged by the impact of the opiate epidemic on a daily basis,” said Giordano. “Tragically, lives continue to be damaged and lost.

“Yet it is also true that every day in Albany County hundreds of lives are moving in a different direction towards regained health and lasting recovery as a consequence of prevention efforts, harm reduction interventions, treatment services and recovery supports.”

Earlier this month, Albany County entered into a new partnership with Catholic Charities to provide businesses throughout the County with Narcan, an antidote to opioids, and fentanyl test strip kits. Businesses interested in obtaining these free kits should call the county executive’s office at 518-447-7040.

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