WASHINGTON COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The number 34 can be divided a lot of ways.
It can, for example, be split up into 2, 3, 6, 9 and 14. That’s the number of overdoses in 2021 recorded between Fort Ann, Whitehall, Fort Edward, Kingsbury and Hudson Falls.
It can also be split into 28 and 6.
That’s how many of those overdoses were not fatal, versus how many were.
It’s numbers like those that are now public for all to see on Washington County’s new overdose response dashboard. The dashboard breaks down drug overdoses by location, what drug was responsible, and whether the overdose reversal drug naloxone was administered.
Washington County Senior Investigator Kristen Hardy says making that data public comes down to awareness, a vital part of the fight against drug abuse.
“I think a lot of community members maybe don’t realize how concerning substance abuse is in our area,” Hardy said in a phone interview on Monday. “As law enforcement officials, we’re certainly responding to these types of cases on a daily basis.”
In 2021, overdose cases have predominantly involved heroin – 17 out of 34, according to the dashboard.
Getting those numbers out there helps people living in Washington County’s central and rural communities understand what the fight against drug abuse looks like around them, and it also helps the other groups the county works with to help overdose victims recover.
Those groups include a task force that Washington and neighboring Warren counties sit on together. Warren County launched an overdose dashboard of its own earlier this year.
The numbers also help the county plan and distribute resources to those who have gone through an overdose. Those include a mobile response unit, who can come and administer Narcan or provide other assistance in cases where police are not able to do so. They also include mental health aid options.
Into the numbers
According to the dashboard, 14 of the county’s overdoses were responded to by law enforcement.
Police departments that respond to overdose calls play a big role in data collection. In addition to county and state police, five village police agencies respond to calls in different parts of the county.
Four of those agencies are now working with the county on the dashboard. They include Hudson Falls, Cambridge-Greenwich, Whitehall and Granville police departments.
Those agencies use an entry form to put in the details on each overdose: Location, response, age group, drug type, fatality, and whether naloxone was used.
Right now, the dashboard only shows info for 2021, but Hardy said that she can see it being important beyond that.
“I think it will be a great tool in the future, to look back on years prior,” she said. “In the future, I can definitely see the beneficial side (…) to be able to look back.”
Those years to come will be dictated in no small part by the longevity of COVID-19 and its affect on mental health.
Overdose rates have gone up nationally since the start of the pandemic, and Hardy says Washington County is no exception.
“I think that was the focus of bringing this to light,” she said. “So, by providing this information, we’re hopeful that just bringing awareness, resources and the accesibility to those resources will help to combat this problem.”