In the latest New York State Opioid Annual Report, Columbia County was in the top 25% of all counties for overdose deaths. When comparing 2017 and 2018, the rate of overdose deaths involving any drug was higher in Columbia County than in any other Capitol District county except Greene and higher than any other county in Mid-Hudson except Ulster.
As DA, Gene Keeler will push for good programs, already in place in the Capital Region, that get addicted individuals into treatment before—not after—they are arrested for drug offenses and before they commit drug-related crimes.
In Columbia County, Chatham Cares 4U was developed by Chatham Police Chief Peter Volkmann based on the PARRI (Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative). In existence for three years, it is the model for a program launched recently in Schenectady. The Albany Police Department has used a similar national program—The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). In both programs, police refer individuals who seek help to treatment, with no questions asked about drug offenses.
Although the police are the main points of contact, they aren't the only players who can make such programs happen. In 2018, the National District Attorney Association stressed the need for prosecutors to address prevention and rehabilitation, specifically recommending engagement in the LEAD program.