County Takes on Opioid Epidemic

Molinaro Highlights Addiction and Mental Health Initiatives in 2018 Budget Presentation.

The opioid epidemic is the public health crisis of our time, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that in 2015 “drug overdoses accounted for 52,404 U.S. deaths, including 33,091 (63%) that involved an opioid.” Dutchess County is not immune to this tragic epidemic, with the number of accidental deaths increasing from 36 deaths in 2010 to 63 deaths in 2016, with 64 lives lost already this year. While Dutchess County Government has taken an aggressive and collaborative approach to combatting this epidemic – from prevention education, accessible drug drop boxes, NARCAN training, 24/7 crisis and support services, and Medication Assisted Treatment to Drug Task Force raids and enforcement efforts – barriers still exist to fully addressing this epidemic. One of those barriers is the stigma around addiction and mental illness that still exists in our society.

As part of his 2018 Executive Budget presentation in the Legislative Chambers of the Dutchess County Office Building in Poughkeepsie on October 31, Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro discussed how Dutchess County is “Breaking Through” to stomp out the stigma too often associated with mental illness and addiction, adding resources to the County’s critical 24/7 intervention services, and providing hope and help to those struggling, as well as those who love them.

“Each of us, whether we realize it or not, knows someone struggling with mental illness or the demons of addiction. We are losing too many in our community because so many are silent about their struggle,” said County Executive Molinaro. “We must come together, talk about it, confront it and most importantly, provide the tools, support, and resources necessary to help. Dutchess County is prepared to take a radical approach to address this epidemic, adding needed resources to assist people. But for those resources to be effective, we must be committed to ‘Breaking Through’ the stigma and be willing to set judgment aside and move beyond shame to help and hope.”

Breaking Through is a call to action – to combat the stigma of addiction and mental illness that makes it harder for people to talk about the issues they face or seek the help they need. It is a challenge to the entire community to learn about how people become addicted and better understand the harsh realities that people suffering with the disease of addiction face. It is a challenge to everyone to provide the support and understanding needed for anyone to travel down the difficult path to recovery.

The Breaking Through call to action is similar to Dutchess County’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, which spotlights the need for the entire community to open their hearts and minds to those who have special needs to make the community more inclusive and accessible for all. The “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” campaign has had far-reaching impacts with communities throughout Dutchess County, New York State and even across the nation, signing on to find ways to be more welcoming and supportive for their residents and visitors.

“The people of Dutchess County have answered the call to ThinkDIFFERENTLY and we are seeing positive change every day. We want to have that same impact with Breaking Through,” said County Executive Molinaro. “By talking openly, honestly, and often, we can challenge how people think about mental illness and addiction. We can break through the stigma that too often prevents people from reaching out and getting the help they need. Dutchess County has the necessary tools, and we are continuing to add to those resources.”

To spread the message of Breaking Through, County Executive Molinaro has allocated $20,000 in the 2018 Executive Budget to contract with Spark Media Project for a digital media campaign to be designed and produced by young people in the community, highlighting the many resources available for those with mental health and/or substance abuse issues.

Dutchess County Government, in partnership with numerous community providers, has a wide range of programs and services available for those seeking help. As part of his 2018 Executive Budget presentation, County Executive Molinaro announced additional resources will be committed to strengthen and enhance 24/7 intervention programs, which include: HELPLINE – 24/7 resource that people can call or text (845) 485-9700 to be connected with mental health professionals who are ready to listen and help. HELPLINE offers immediate crisis intervention, counseling, information and direct connections to services and treatment.

Mobile Crisis Intervention Team – mental health professionals available 24/7 to come directly to individuals and families for crisis prevention and immediate intervention outreach. Stabilization Center – 24/7 walk-in facility located at 230 North Road in Poughkeepsie for people of all ages dealing with mental health, substance use or life issues or crises; no referral and appointment is necessary. Other programs and services include: Partial Hospital Program – short-term structured outpatient mental health treatment for adults that can be an alternative to hospitalization or provide assistance following a hospital discharge. Intensive Treatment Alternatives Program (ITAP) – day rehabilitation for those dealing with substance abuse and chemical dependency. Recovery Coach Program – counselors who have successfully overcome their own addiction provide motivational coaching, mentoring and recovery planning. Medication Assisted Treatment – programs that combine the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders and prevent opioid overdose. Naloxone (NARCAN) Training – community training to understand what to do when overdose is suspected, how naloxone works to reverse an overdose, and demonstrate how and when to administer the medication. Attendees receive hands-on training for administering naloxone and take home a free NARCAN kit at the end of the course. Mental Health First Aid – community training to increase knowledge about mental health and substance abuse and how to connect individuals to help. To connect or learn more about any of these services, simply call or text Dutchess County HELPLINE at (845) 485-9700.

Andrew O’Grady, Executive Director of Mental Health America of Dutchess County, said, “In an age where it seems people are willing to talk about anything, mental health and addiction issues still somehow remain taboo topics. I am excited for Dutchess County’s Breaking Through initiative, and I applaud County Executive Molinaro for acknowledging that we have to talk about mental illness and addiction, as part of everyday conversation, without stigma, without shame, without embarrassment, so that people can get the help they need. Each one of us can do our part to improve outcomes of mental health and addiction, we can all be part of Breaking Through. As a community, we can send a message to all those people suffering in silence that they have support and we want to help them in their recovery.”

On November 2, County Executive Molinaro hosted a countywide tele-town hall forum, during which residents had the opportunity to participate in a live conversation about the 2018 county budget, learn key details, ask questions and share feedback. Additionally, there will be town hall forums about the 2018 Executive Budget held at the Union Vale Town Hall at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29 and the Fishkill Town Hall at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30. For more information online about the 2018 proposed budget and the Breaking Through initiative – including all budget documents – visit