Franklin County Public Health wants more narcan available to stop overdoses

MALONE — Katie Strack, Franklin County Public Health director, updated lawmakers on her department’s current priorities prior to the regular meeting of the legislature Thursday at the courthouse.

Strack detailed plans to promote breastfeeding to new mothers, upcoming rabies clinics and funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that will allow for staff expansion. She also discussed harm-reduction measures her agency is eyeing as overdose deaths continue to mount across the region, state and nation.

Narcan boxes, vending machine

Strack asked legislators to pass a resolution that would allow the county to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Adirondack Health Insititute to provide the county with free narcan boxes.

“These are the narcan boxes that are available to the public should there be any perceived overdoses,” Strack said. These boxes, much like automated external defibrillators, would be located in public spaces for easy access.

Narcan arrests overdoses by blocking opioid receptors in the brain, and there is no danger in using narcan in cases of suspected overdose on people who have not used opioids.

“The way this is working is that Adironack Health Institute will give us the three boxes, and Alliance for Health will fill the boxes with supplies,” Strack explained. “That’s part of the memorandum of understanding.”

She said cursory plans for the boxes would put one in the Malone courthouse, another at the Department of Social Services and the third on the south end of the county.

She said another harm reduction measure the health department is interested in providing is a narcan vending machine.

“This is a vending machine that is placed somewhere available for a user,” Strack said. “Because inside the vending machine may very well be needles, may very well be fentanyl strips, may very well be narcan — whatever a user may need to have the safest care for whatever activity they may endeavor.”

She said people would be directed to a phone number on the machine, which would direct them to Alliance for Health, the harm reduction firm handling the machines, which would provide an identification number which would allow access to the machine.

“It’s fairly anonymous, because it’s an ID,” Strack said.

County Manager Donna Kissane asked for evidenced-based data from other communities that have used the machines.

“Can we get some data on this, because isn’t it a little concerning?” Kissane asked.

Strack said that since the machine will be the first of its kind in the North Country, it makes sense to build a strong understanding of how the process would work.

“It’s only right that we undergo some scrutiny,” she said. She added that she would bring in people more knowledgeable on the machines to better explain the issue.

CDC funding

“The CDC funding for public health infrastructure support has come down,” Strack said. “It is at the state level.”

Franklin County Public Health will see $121,000 per year for five years, and Strack said the funding can be accepted in a lump sum, annually, or in a hybrid arrangement.

She said the purpose of the grant is to allow Strack’s department to add staff to its roster.

“I believe we might also be able to work contracts to supplement and augment our staff now,” she said. “I have another contract that will find us nurses at a 15% finder fee. I am not ready to give them 15% just yet.”

Strack said a “natural consequence” of adding more staff is that her department will be in need of more physical work space on the northern end of the county.

“There’s dollars to increase the space for the infrastructure. It’s all covered,” she said.

Rabies clinics

Strack said her department has not yet decided on dates for rabies clinics.

“The rabies clinic worker is arranging all of this with all the vets,” Strack said. “We’re also competing with vets that also do other towns and villages and counties. We’re working through the schedule still.”

She committed to informing legislators and other community when scheduling decisions are made, as public health is still deciding on sites for the clinics. She said there will be no walk in availability at the clinics and registration will be required.

“They can call us and register, but they have to register,” Strack told lawmakers. “Last year we did hybrid, and we did allow walk-ins. It was chaos. We don’t think it was beneficial for the people that attended because they got upset.”

She said impacts of the COVID pandemic means the county did not differentiate between one-year and three-year rabies vaccinations, and workers aim to rectify that with this year’s clinics.

“We must begin to do that, because the puppies get a different series and the adult animals get something different,” Strack explained. “Last year, because we didn’t have any rabies clinics really in 2020, we just did one for all. So now we have to catch up and correctly vaccinate the pets.”

She said this year’s clinics will be more complicated as a result.

“It will involve more review on our part. We have to make sure we have the right vaccine,” Strack said. “So it takes more preparation.”

Andrea Dumas, R-Malone, suggested the county hold a drive-thru clinic at the county fairgrounds.

“That’s a possibility,” Strack said.

Home care services

Finally, Strack requested the county manager sign an agreement with North Country Home Services at the 2022 home health aide rate.

“That’s the rate that we pay right now,” Strack explained. “North Country Home Care submitted a letter requesting a rate increase.”

She said that request is for $45 per hour, as compared to the $39.20 the county is currently paying.

“I held up on that resolution in 2022, but what I’ve come to realize is that we can’t pay any bill unless there’s an agreement,” Strack told lawmakers. “We will be writing our insurance companies for rate increases, because this is not something that should be brought down upon the taxpayer.”

Strack closed by saying she would be bringing more requests for resolutions to the board in coming weeks.


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