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With 5 fatal overdoses, GPD ups Narcan training

GLOVERSVILLE — With reported overdoses on the rise in the city, the Gloversville Police Department has stepped up efforts in recent months to provide residents training in the administration of the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan.

Police Chief Anthony Clay reported to the Common Council on Tuesday that police have responded to around 35 reported overdoses in the city this year. In the third quarter of the year running from July through September, police responded to nine separate incidents where officers administered a total of 17 doses of Narcan.

Despite their efforts, Clay reported five fatal overdoses occurred during four of those incidents.

“The [fatal] overdoses are related to not having Narcan in my opinion,” said Clay.

Reviewing body camera footage captured by police responding to the reported overdoses, Clay explained that officers, upon arrival, encounter a person who is apparently deceased and who can often be revived through the administration of Narcan.

“I don’t mean just passed out, just unconscious, there’s all of the telltale signs of somebody being deceased laying in front of them and they’re up and speaking within five to 10 minutes after Narcan administration,” said Clay. “That person comes back to life.”

Clay pointed to the mixture of fentanyl with various opioids, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, as the common cause of overdoses by victims who often unknowingly use the cut-together drugs.

“All of these things can be tainted with a fatal dose of fentanyl and so it’s not a singular problem anymore,” said Clay. “Some people are purchasing fentanyl directly.”

Beyond typical investigative work, city police throughout the year have stepped up efforts to inform the public of the alarming trend hoping to avert some incidents before they occur. Clay has also developed new means of providing residents access to a variety of resources to combat addiction and other social issues they may be facing by establishing a Neighborhood Engagement Unit.

The new unit is aimed at bringing officers into neighborhoods accompanied by representatives of community service agencies to connect with residents while providing families access to any needed services with the goal of improving the quality of life for individuals and strengthening the community as a whole. Officers later return to the neighborhoods to reconnect with residents who requested services to offer additional access to resources as needed.

Police, service organizations and community members took part in the first outing of the Neighborhood Engagement Unit in the Burr Street neighborhood on Sept. 2. Participants broke into teams that went door-to-door to chat with residents and provide information on available resources in the community. Involved agencies also set up tables at a parking lot off of South Main Street to provide information to any interested passersby.

During the first outing, representatives of the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center were also on hand to provide details on addiction treatment and recovery programs, as well as on the spot Narcan training to interested individuals and provided those residents with a free Narcan supply kit upon completion to use in case of an overdose.

Clay announced that the second operation of the Neighborhood Engagement Unit will take place on Oct. 22 beginning at 2 p.m. with participating organization tabling at Spring Street Park while officers and community group and agency members visit surrounding residences door-to-door to share resources and information on available services.

Although the goal of the new unit is to eventually visit each neighborhood across the city, Clay stated that this month’s operation will be the final outing for the Neighborhood Engagement Unit this year partly in anticipation of winter, but more so due to the requirements of the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative.

The reform process was mandated for all local police agencies under an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June amidst a wave of protests against police violence across the state and the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

Under the executive order, all police departments across the state are required to develop a plan that “reinvents and modernizes police strategies” with input from the community the agency serves. Plans must address policies, procedures, practices, deployment and use of force. Every locality must adopt a plan for reform by April 1, 2021 to be eligible for future state funding.

“Unfortunately, as I think you’re all aware, I informed you the Reform and Reinvention Act is going to take quite a bit of our administrative efforts to comply with by next spring and so we really need to focus on that over the next couple of months,” said Clay.

While the Neighborhood Engagement Unit will temporarily cease operations for the winter, Clay committed to continuing efforts to train and get Narcan into the hands of community members in partnership with the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center.

“I think the overdoses are related to not having enough Narcan out there which is why I’m working with people to try to push out as much as we can,” said Clay.

City police recently worked to connect Rob Constantine Director Ginger Cato with Rev. Richard Wilkinson of the Gloversville Free Methodist Church to allow Cato to offer Narcan training and supply kits to residents visiting the church’s food pantry on Bleecker Street. Through that effort Cato was able to provide training to approximately 53 residents.

Police are currently organizing a similar training opportunity with Cato to be held in the community room at DuBois Garden Apartments and will advertise the event with help from Fulton County Emergency Management Director Steven Santa Maria who will set up an electronic roadside message sign alerting passing motorists and pedestrians of the available training.

“We’re still pushing out into the community in different ways. That’s not stopping,” said Clay.

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