New epidemic of the pandemic: Albany County sees rise in drug overdoses

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Albany County reported an alarming number of 16 drug overdoses within the past week. Local advocates told News10 the mental total of the pandemic and extra money from the government might be to blame.

“People who are struggling with addiction get lost in this cycle of not seen and not heard,” said Kelly Fahrrenkopf, Director of Residential Services at Addiction Care Center of Albany, INC.

With COVID-19 cases coming down, Albany County could be facing an epidemic within the pandemic, an increase in drug overdoses.

“We want everybody to still hear and see that it is a real problem in our county and every county,” said Fahrenkopf.

“Albany county has seen an uptick in the use of a bunch of drugs. But mainly K2 or Spice they call it,” said Perry Jones, Executive Director of the Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany.

In 2020, there were 99 overdose related deaths in Albany County. That was a 60% increase from 62 deaths in 2019. Jones said the influx of laced drugs is believed to be behind the surge.

“This K2/Spice is a drug that can be put together in the United States without having to bring in things from other places. However expect for the fentanyl, the fentanyl is brought in, as far as I know we are not getting that here,” said Jones.

Fahrenkopf said she can think of two reasons for the increase of overdoses, the stress of the pandemic and federal and state money.

“Many people have the stimulus money, or unemployment coming in every month. It’s a lot of money for a lot of people who struggle with addiction to have all at once,” said she.

As New York reaches a deal on the state budget, Fahrenkopf said it was crucial to provide resources for addiction centers. She mentioned especially after when the stimulus and unemployments checks stop coming in.

“The clients are going to be out of money and they will be more in need of services. They aren’t going to have any resources, so they are going to need ours. That will entitle more staff, more buildings, and just funding overall,” said she. 

“Those who are struggling with advance addiction issues like this, we have resources to get them the help they need,” said Jones.  

As pressure from the pandemic mounts on some people, Albany County is working to get dangerous drugs off the street.

County officials say anyone in need of help with addiction, recovery or prevention, you can call the 24/7 Capital Region Open Access Engagement Program at 1-866-930-4999.

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