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Inter-Agency Overdose Prevention Task Force first meeting

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Capital Region of New York seeing a wave of overdoses recently. Tuesday, the New York State Inter-Agency Overdose Prevention Task Force meeting for the first time. NEWS10 speaking with local officials on what they say they want to see from the task force.

The task force met in an effort to combat what officials here are calling the worst epidemic of this kind. The governor’s office created a task force by joining together some of the top figures from across the state.

“It’s about all of government working together. Like we did during the pandemic to solve a really big problem,” said Dr. James McDonald, Commissioner, New York Department of Health.

“We need to focus on harm reduction because that’s really about keeping people alive,” said Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, Commissioner of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS).

The task force is designed to expand and enhance programming, develop innovative initiatives to support lifesaving care and services. 

“Definitely all of the health-related agencies are included. Education, first responders, law enforcement, criminal justice, and social services. So, really any place where people with addiction may touch systems,” said Cunningham.

Local mental health agencies and law enforcement officials dealing with the issue firsthand say it is a step in the right direction and something they have been asking for.

They shared with NEWS10 what they hope will come from the new task force.

“I would like to have a public creative campaign that would be throughout the state. From a treatment perspective, I’d like to see that we develop skill sets in the workforce. So, that there would be one door for people to come into. If you have mental health concerns, if you have addiction issues, you can be treated at the same place,” said Rensselaer County Mental Health Commissioner, Katherine Along-Coons.

Law enforcement officials say that “barriers to care are always, you know, can be frustrating for people on the front lines and I know that they’re [Task Force] going to be working on those,” said Lt. Macherone with the Schenectady Police Department.

The task force will have six more meetings and will issue a final report on October 15. If you would like to submit public comment to the Task Force you can email OverdoseTaskForce@oasas.ny.gov.

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