On Wednesday Jan. 23, the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming (GOW) Opioid Task Force met and hosted their quarterly meeting. Nearly 100 people were in attendance and represented numerous community sectors across the tri-county region.
Paul Pettit, Public Health director of Genesee and Orleans counties, kicked off the meeting by welcoming all in attendance and acknowledging key Task Force members such as the Steering Committee, Work Group members and chairs, and the Greater Rochester Health Foundation. Pettit also asked for a moment of silence for those we have lost to addiction this year and those who are still struggling.
Pettit and Laura Paolucci, Wyoming County Public Health administrator, then provided a brief history of the Task Force, which included a historical overview of the opioid crisis at a national, state and local level.
Pettit said locally there has been a steady incline over the several years of opioid overdose deaths in the GOW region. In 2015 death totals related to opioid overdoses equaled 17, in 2016 they equaled 31 and in 2017 they reached a peak of 39. Pettit also shared data points related to opioid overdose death rate per 100,000 for each county, known naloxone (Narcan) administration data for the region, and emergency department visits categorized as drug overdose for the region.
Pettit and Paolucci concluded their presentation with a brief overview of how the Task Force was formed and what the first quarterly meeting was like in January, 2017.
The GOW Opioid Task Force has numerous Work Groups who collaborate across the region to ensure the objectives of the task force are met. Each Work Group chair provided a brief update as to what has taken place in 2018, what to look forward to in 2019, and how to join a Work Group.
Data Work Group Chair, Clement Nsiah, Population Health Improvement Program coordinator at Population Health Collaborative, shared recent and up-to-date data for 2018. Nsiah said opioid overdose deaths in the GOW region for 2018 were at 30. Nsiah noted this data is not yet conclusive as there are still 11 cases pending confirmation from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Report.
Furthermore, Nsiah reported known naloxone administration in the GOW region has remained the same from 2017 to 2018 at 164 known administrations and emergency departments reported a decline in visits categorized as drug overdoses across the region with 247 reported in 2017 and 186 reported in 2018.
The Naloxone Work Group Chair, Charlotte Crawford, chief executive officer at Lake Plains Community Care Network, reported the Work Group collected trained 1661 individuals in the use and administration of naloxone/Narcan in the GOW region and a total of 1,555 kits were distributed across the region.
Sharon Legette-Sobers from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation spoke about a grant they awarded to the GOW Opioid Task Force in May (2018) and shared some insight as to why the task force was a recipient of this grant.
The task force received a three-year grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and many of the efforts of the task force are supported via the grant. Allison Parry-Gurak, project coordinator for the task force and with Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, then identified grant outcomes and objectives and provide a brief update as to where the Task Force in regard to completing these outcomes.
Parry-Gurak said the GOW Opioid Task Force currently has more than 300 members from across the tri-county region. Members represent various sectors of the community, including public health, mental health, human services, local government, substance use disorder treatment and recovery agencies, law enforcement, EMS, faith-based groups, health systems and medical practitioners, education, businesses, concerned individuals and families.
In addition, numerous efforts have taken place since the start of the grant, with a focus on reducing the number of deaths attributed to opioids in the GOW region and stopping the increase in opioid-related overdoses.
Tall Girl Design, a marketing and website design company from Lockport, launched the official task force logo and kicked off the website for the task force.
The meeting concluded with the introduction of the task force evaluators from the Center for Human Services Research at the University at Albany, Center for Addiction Research at the University at Albany, and Albany Medical Center and College who shared who they are as well as their intended implementation plan.
The next GOW Opioid Task Force meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 24, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Please visit the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force website here for more information.