GovernmentThe Putnam Examiner

Crisis Stabilization Center to be Created in Putnam County

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Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell has decided to use a portion of the funds the county received from the federal American Rescue Package to create a Crisis Stabilization Center.

Odell said the center, given a $2.5 million startup, would bring many services together under one roof and be the home of the One Army on the War Against Addiction that she has always envisioned.

The Putnam Crisis Stabilization Center will be available 365 days a year, allowing adults, youths and children to immediately connect with mental health professionals and providers. It is designed to address any mental health need as well as co-occurring disorders. The center will be entirely voluntary, and people can walk-in or be brought by law enforcement or emergency services on crisis intervention calls. Guests will be able to stay for 24 hours, and family members can stay with their loved ones.

“Thanks to the perseverance of all the families and the groups that provide services for alcohol and opioid abuse, mental health treatment, suicide prevention and more, Putnam County right now is in a very, very good position,” Odell said. “We first got involved in the fight against the opioid crisis back around 2013, when we fought the state to keep open the drug court. We saw the devastation that addiction was causing families and loved ones of those with the disease, and so we stayed on course. We did not let up on this crisis.”

Michael J. Piazza Jr., commissioner of the Department of Social Services and Mental Health, said the federal funding and money Putnam expects to receive from lawsuits from Big Pharma will enable the county to help counter the scourge of opiate addiction.

“Both areas of funding will serve to increase prevention, early intervention and treatment resources for persons in our community suffering from mental health and substance use disorder,” Piazza said. “Both the ARPA funds and the Opiate Settlement Funds will provide a continuum of care consisting of crisis intervention, early intervention, treatment and peer support for those with the disease as well as for their families and friends who suffer so much.”

Odell, who is leaving office the end of the year after being term limited, said her fight to help the victims of the opioid crisis began soon after she took office in 2011 when the state Office of Court Administration defunded the Drug Court, which was overseen by late Judge James Reitz. Odell stepped in and ensured the county would continue funding the court, which had success at preventing recidivism among those who were involved in drug-related crimes.

In 2017, Putnam jumped at the chance to join the lawsuits against Big Pharma and hold them accountable. As part of the effort, Odell signed a resolution memorializing the “One Army on the War of Addiction,” which guaranteed that any settlement funds would go to education, awareness and prevention. The resolution ensured that local provider groups would, one day, have funds to do the work that is needed to assist those in crisis.

“I’ve got to be honest, things were very difficult,” Piazza said. “The opioid epidemic has worsened since the pandemic. There were 21 opioid-related deaths in Putnam County so far in 2022, far more than the 14 deaths that occurred countywide in all of 2021.”

Last spring, the first Big Pharma settlements were announced. New York State is set to receive more than $2 billion in settlements over the next two decades. Putnam County will get a portion of that, though the timing and the county’s share is not yet clear.

Piazza set up a group of 30 local stakeholders – Putnam County Opiate Settlement Work Group — to discuss the best use for the county’s portion of the settlement.

“We began this discussion mindful of the grief that hundreds of our families have felt, and are still feeling, over the death of a loved one,” Piazza said. “And with the purpose of using this funding to make sure that others do not have to feel this cruel loss due to the disease of alcohol and other substance use disorders.”

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