October 22, 2021

Cortland County may join opioid study


The Cortland County Legislature will vote Nov. 21 on a resolution that would allow the county to sign agreements paying it to take part in a four-year research study on reducing opioid deaths by 40%.

“It’s too early for me to sit here and say this is a wonderful thing because it’s all going to depend on where they pour money into but I think it’s going to help,” said Dean O’Gorman, who lost his son Spencer in 2017 to an overdose.

O’Gorman is also an advocate for naloxone training, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

“I think I’ve been talking about the NY HEALing (Communities) study for probably three or four months now, eagerly anticipating the contracts,” said Mark Thayer, county mental health director. “So we have the contracts, but not enough information in the contracts to formalize the agreements.”

He did not elaborate on what additional information was needed but said he hopes to have the contracts ready to sign by the legislature meeting.

The study would “test how different proven approaches to preventing opioid overdose deaths work together with the greatest efficacy to promote good outcomes,” states a resolution given to Health and Human Services Committee members last week.

The committee approved the resolution, 6-0. Legislator Joan Coombs (R-Cincinnatus, Freetown, Taylor, Willet) was absent.

Cortland County was chosen to participate in wave one of the study.

“That means it will be two years before we get additional monies to implement programs,” Thayer said. “The initial funding is to hire two positions, the purpose of which is to assess what we currently have, report out on that.”

Those two positions would be a county project manager and a data surveillance coordinator.

The study would provide up to $101,058 from Oct. 1 to March 3. Then for three additional years the county could receive $202,116 a year. However, those three years are contingent upon satisfactory performance and continued funding by the National Institute of Drug Addiction.

“We are disappointed not to be in the first round but I still believe this is very worthwhile,” said Legislator Michael Barylski (D-Cortlandville).

Colombia University was given $86 million to implement the study among 16 counties in New York; 67 across four states are participating, including neighboring Cayuga County.

In those 16 counties, 3,224 people died in 2017 of opioid overdoses, according to a news release from Cayuga County.

“We are excited to be part of this large-scale effort to find answers together and compare notes on outcomes,” said Raymond Bizzari, Cayuga County mental health commissioner. “We are ready to get to work with our community partners and get even more evidence-based opioid treatment to people in Cayuga County.”