Among the initiatives introduced during the Ulster County Executive's budget speech was one program that would stick out to anyone who has been touched by the opioid addiction epidemic.
At Thursday's event at the soon-to-be-opened Ulster County Family Court building, Hein first praised staff at Ellenville Regional Hospital for keeping patients safe when someone seeking opioid medication fired a gun in the emergency room.
Then, with Ellenville Regional's CEO in attendance, Hein announced a partnership with the hospital to expand access to suboxone.
Suboxone has been shown through numerous studies to block opioids from connecting to receptors in the brain and to ease cravings.
The federal government recently lifted the limit on the number of patients a doctor can treat with suboxone from 100 to 275.
"This pilot program will encourage urge all first responders to transport any overdose patients... ...directly to that hospital where they'll be medically stabllized, provided suboxone therapy and linked to a professional counselor to encourage immediate treatment," Hein explained.
Hein said the county will pay to train Ellenville Regional's ER doctors to administer short-term suboxone treatment, before sending the patients to doctors and counselors in a network of providers. -- All doctors in the network are certified to continue suboxone treatment on a long-term basis.
First responders routinely use the drug, narcan, to reverse overdoses, but previously had not been given any direction on what to do to further help active opioid abusers.
Ellenville Regional CEO Steven Kelley said he sees a window of opportunity in the hours following an overdose.
"We think there's a teaching moment when people have overdoses where they may be willing to really consider seriously going into treatment," Kelley said.
Kelley said Ellenville Regional currently gets three to five patients this way.
Now that county officials and hospital management created a structure and large network, Kelley does not see any limit on the number of patients the program can accomodate.