Three dead after rash of heroin overdoses in Columbia County

June 26, 2017 07:24 PM

CHATHAM – It was a deadly weekend for heroin overdoses in Columbia County. Six people overdosed, three of them died. Police and recovery organizations in the county are trying to get the word out that there is hope for those addicted to heroin.

When Carl Quinn’s volunteers at Columbia Pathways to Recovery started getting a number of phone calls Sunday afternoon, he immediately knew something was wrong. “By the end of the day, what we were able to find out is there had been six overdoses in the county and three of them had been fatal,” said Quinn, who is president of Columbia Pathways to Recovery.

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The number of daily heroin overdose deaths nationally has been on the rise, but the amount of overdoses and deaths this weekend in Columbia County is unusual and eye-opening. “Huge number, huge number for us,” said Quinn. “When 174 people a day die in the country from a heroin overdose, to have six in a weekend that are overdoses with three fatalities, it’s a huge number for us.”

At this point, both police and recovery organizations are looking at a possible bad, or tainted, batch of heroin as the culprit for the overdoses and deaths. “We just have learned from experience that it’s probably a bad batch of heroin,” said Chief Peter Volkmann of the Chatham Police Department.

“To see a pocket like this happen so quickly leads us to believe that’s where it came from,” said Quinn.

And Columbia County wasn’t the only area of the state to experience a rash of overdoses and deaths this past weekend. In Johnson City, near Binghamton, four people overdosed and three of them died. “It begs the theory of, “did it come from that direction up into our area or was that completely separate,”” asked Quinn.

The spate of overdoses has organizations and police teaming up, looking to get the word out about this potentially bad batch that has been distributed throughout the community. “The first thing is to make sure somebody is with the heroin user at all times to keep them safe during this time,” said Quinn. “We don’t want them to use alone.”

“At least if somebody is with them and has Narcan [a drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose], there’s a chance of combatting the overdose,” Quinn continued.

Chatham Police started a program in July 2016 called Chatham Cares 4 U that helps addicts find treatment. While we were in Chatham Monday, one person came in for help. “We’ve had 128 people come in in the past year where they just couldn’t find a bed and were desperate for help, and we’ve helped them,” said Volkmann.

“There’s hope,” said Volkmann. “You’ve just got to reach out and ask for help and there’s a lot of help in this county and we’re all coordinated together and we all work together.”

“There is help in recovery, we just need people to reach out and understand that there are resources available,” said Quinn. “Three families are burying someone this week. And that’s just, it hurts. It hurts to hear that, it hurts to think that’s what’s going to happen this week in this community.”

Columbia Pathways to Recovery will be holding a training session on how to use Narcan Tuesday night. That session is taking place at Chatham High School and starts at 7:00.


Ben Amey

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