ORI brings key stakeholders together to reduce overdose deaths in Westchester County
Watch the full press conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBK7xc1ZNEc
In response to a surge in overdose deaths in Westchester County during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Westchester County Departments of Community Mental Health, Health, Social Services, Public Safety, the Medical Examiner’s Office and the County Executive’s Office have partnered with the Westchester County brought together district attorneys’ offices and local and state law enforcement agencies to launch the Opioid Response and Overdose Prevention Initiative (ORI). The ORI brings together key stakeholders from across Westchester County who work together to prevent overdose deaths and save lives.
ORI Partners meet regularly to address:
- Cooperation in data exchange in the field of public health and law enforcement agencies.
- Identify which communities are most in need of overdose support services.
- Conduct more effective education, training and distribution of naloxone, or “narcan,” a vital tool in preventing deaths in people at high risk of overdose.
- Conduct more thorough data collection, analysis and visibility into overdoses.
- Improving community education, outreach and support services to vulnerable populations.
- Improve access to addiction, mental health and concomitant treatment, harm reduction and family support services, including addiction prevention services.
- Find and implement evidence-based treatment approaches for people with addiction who also struggle with co-occurring mental health needs.
George Latimer, Westchester County Executive said, “ORI is bringing together key stakeholders, healthcare professionals and community service providers to address a critical issue we are trying to bring to a halt in Westchester County. We want every resident to know that if they are struggling, there are genuine support services available to help them overcome their addiction. We hope that by working together, we will see fewer of these tragic, preventable deaths in Westchester County.”
Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah said: “Preventing and tackling overdoses is my top priority and requires action from government officials and community partners. This initiative will allow us to work together more effectively, create meaningful solutions that address all components of this crisis, and develop enforcement strategies that target emerging threat areas and individuals, including healthcare professionals, who are perpetuating the opioid crisis by empowering those affected Substance supply use disorders, including minors, with pollutants.”
According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States in the 12 months ended April 2021, making it the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a single year. 75 percent of these overdose deaths were related to opioids, primarily fentanyl. Westchester County also saw an increase in overdoses at the local level, with Westchester County recording 119 overdose deaths in 2020, an increase of 28 from the previous year (2019). In addition, there have been many non-fatal drug overdoses in the county, which can have serious physical and emotional effects on individuals and their loved ones.
ORI’s efforts have already produced positive results. Westchester County has stepped up naloxone awareness, empowering local law enforcement, emergency medical services and the general public with the potentially life-saving drug. Medication-assisted treatment has also been expanded to provide greater access to treatment for substance use disorders. Facilities participating in the ORI have the opportunity to share data to identify which communities are most in need of overdose assistance and to support them with the services they need.
Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) Commissioner Michael Orth said, “Under the leadership and vision of County Executive Latimer and District Attorney Rocah, and strong collaboration among county departments, Westchester County has developed a multi-faceted approach to responding to the opioid and hyperbole epidemic. Westchester’s ORI efforts have strengthened our ability to expand community education, outreach and support, and the use of evidence-based substance use, mental health and concomitant treatment for individuals struggling with addition and their families.”
Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler said: “Substance use disorder is a complex and often multifaceted disease that requires a comprehensive approach to address it. The ORI brings together individuals from diverse disciplines to provide their unique expertise in prevention, response and treatment. Collaboration between public health and mental health professionals, law enforcement, first responders, the medical community, and people who use drugs gives us the opportunity to change the way we understand the problem, as well as the way we deal with it prevent and treat to change.”
Westchester County Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason said: “Investigators assigned to the Real Time Crime Center continue to coordinate with prosecutors and local police departments to collect timely and accurate data on exaggerations. This data helps support appropriate law enforcement investigations and public relations. In addition, our patrol officers have been trained to administer Narcan to overdose victims and have saved numerous lives over the past few years.”