GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Police Department on Thursday announced it has installed two “Public Access Narcan Boxes” to help combat opioid overdoses in the city.
The boxes, which police say will be available 24 hours a day, have been placed in the lobby of the police department in city hall and in the vestibule area of GPD’s entrance.
“Each box contains a kit which contains two, 4 mg doses of Narcan, gloves, and information regarding mental health and substance abuse services available within the community,” reads a news release from GPD. “Narcan kits are meant for emergency use to resuscitate a person who is experiencing an opioid overdose as the result of consuming substances such as heroin, fentanyl, or prescription medication. The kits are provided at no expense to members of the public.”
Opioid-related drug overdoses have been a hot topic in Gloversville ever since a controversial two-part series by News Channel 13 WNYT in Albany, aired in September. The series included graphic body camera footage from July 15 supplied by the GPD which showed an apparent overdose and the successful efforts of police to save the victim.
Critics of the series have pointed out that it did not include drug overdose statistics that would show the scope of Gloversville’s drug problem compared to other communities in the Capital Region.
Data supplied by the Glove City Coalition and the Fulton County District Attorney’s office shows from Jan. 1 through June 16 Gloversville had 35 suspected drug overdoses with 3 suspected fatal drug overdoses.
Overdoses in Gloversville then skyrocketed by 85.3% in the 90 days between June 16 and Sept. 14, a total increase of 28 suspected overdose calls, bringing the total to 63. During the same time period, the number of suspected fatal overdoses more than doubled, increasing from three to eight — an increase of 166%
Those numbers indicate Gloversville’s drug overdose problem increased at a substantially higher rate than the drug overdose EMS calls in New York state during the same time period, which increased by 65% from 10,149 on June 16 to 16,798 by Sept. 14. Suspected overdose fatalities in New York state rose by 65% during the same time period, from 1,156 by June 16 to 1,902 by Sept. 14., less than half the percentage increase in Gloversville.
During Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting, GPD Captain Mike Garavelli told the common council the year-to-date Gloversville overdose statistics show 66 suspected drug overdose calls, with now nine total suspected drug overdose deaths. However, he also warned the council the statistics may be wrong.
“Due to ongoing issues with the New World Records Management System, the statistics obtained might not be true and accurate; some statistics were not able to be retrieved from the system,” reads Garavelli’s written report to the council. “The department is working to rectify this issue with an internal audit of all tickets issued.”
Garavelli has been performing most of the duties of GPD chief since sometime in September when GPD Police Chief Anthony “Tony” Clay stopped attending common council meetings in wake of the broadcast of the Channel 13 TV news series. Clay was interviewed for the series, but did not inform the Common Council or the mayor about the series until the day it was broadcast. Mayor Vince DeSantis has said Clay will retire at the end of the year, but will continue helping the department, particularly with its computer systems, until then.
Garavelli on Tuesday explained some of the frustrations his department has experienced with the new New World Records Management System, which is a Computer Aided Dispatch system GPD is using with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Dept. and the Johnstown Police Dept.
“We’re still experiencing a lot of growing pains with the system, trying to get true and accurate numbers out of there,” Garavelli told the council. “Like some of the overdose numbers. A lot of it has to do with being mislabeled in the system, instead of (a call) being labeled as an overdose, it’s labeled as an “assist fire” or “assist EMS”, and we have go to through and sort it out, so our numbers may change, and that’s probably in all categories, just because sometimes the bugs in the system aren’t cooperating with us, and we’re still working on that.”
“Are we stuck with this system?” 3rd Ward Councilwoman Betsy Batchelor asked.
“Good question ma’am, yes and no,” Garavelli said. “The system is entered into with the sheriff’s department and the Johnstown Police, so it’s been kind of a collaborative effort. Everybody else in the county as well, the fire department, EMS are on board.”
“Does everybody hate it?” asked Batchelor.
“At varying levels,” Garavelli quipped. “It’s just frustrating for us. Fulton County (Information Technology) was over here (on Tuesday) helping me trying to sort out some things. It’s very disjointed from a law enforcement perspective, in how you manage a case and a workflow. There’s a mobile platform and a records platform, and the two don’t talk sometimes, which is very difficult when you’re trying to organize a case. We’re working with the company. We meet with them every Tuesday, trying to rely our frustrations with them.”
Garavelli said the dispatch and records system cost over $ 1million.
“We’re still hopeful we can salvage it,” he said. “If not, we’ve looked at other options. You know, pens still work, unfortunately — we don’t want to go back to that, because this was supposed to be an information sharing platform between us and the other departments, to share intelligence, name files, case reports and things like that. That portion of it seems to work, but the problem is the information going into it is kind of garbage-in, garbage-out. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t really itself (solve data entry problems), while it’s trying to track our officers’ work load, and what they’re doing. It’s extremely difficult. And in a case that you’ve missed, we pick it up after the fact when something isn’t completed, or if it’s just mislabeled, and not selected correctly. It’s just very frustrating.”
All of the police agencies in Fulton County supply data related to suspected drug overdoses and suspected drug overdose fatalities to the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, which then inputs the data into a federal system called the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Overdose Mapping and Application Program.
The Leader-Herald has obtained information about the nine suspected drug overdose fatalities in the 12078 zip code in Gloversville so far this year. The information was provided by the nonprofit Glove City Coalition and acting Fulton County District Attorney Amanda Nellis. The information from Nellis also included the police agencies that responded.
These are the nine fatal drug overdoses, with the last one recorded being on Aug. 22:
- Feb. 10, 1:15 p.m., suspected overdose from cocaine
- May 6, 7:30 p.m., suspected overdose from heroin
- June 8, 7:30 a.m., suspected overdose from heroin, responded to by the Gloversville Police Dept.
- June 12, 2:30 p.m., suspected overdose from cocaine, responded to by the Gloversville Police Dept.
- June 25, 9:45 a.m., suspected overdose from heroin, responded to by the Johnstown Police Dept.
- July 7, 3 p.m., suspected overdose from cocaine, responded to by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Dept.
- July 9, 8:15 a.m., suspected overdose from cocaine, responded to by the Gloversville Police Dept.
- July 9, 2:15 p.m., suspected overdose from suboxone, responded to by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Dept.
- Aug. 22, 7:30 a.m., suspected overdose from fentanyl
Data detailing all of the overdose calls in Gloversville on the HIDTA overdose map confirms there was a drug overdose call responded to by the Gloversville Police Department on July 15 that corresponds to the GPD body cam footage used in Part 1 of the Channel 13 series. The overdose call however was at 6 p.m., 18:00 military time, nine minutes prior to the start of the time stamp on the body cam footage used in the series 18:09:50. There is also an unexplained 48 second time jump in the body cam footage at the 18:10:02 mark, which then skips to 18:10:50, where there can be heard natural sound of a dispatch officer from the car’s radio saying “According to the caller, the female is not breathing,” which was captioned for the TV broadcast.
During the body cam footage, a GPD officer uses Narcan twice, bringing the total application of Narcan for the victim to four before the overdose is stopped. It is explained that multiple uses are sometimes needed for instances of fentanyl overdoses.
According to the HIDTA overdose map data, the July 15 overdose call was the 5th fentanyl overdose call in Gloversville for 2022, but since then, the number of fentanyl related overdoses has doubled to 10, with one fatal fentanyl overdose, the city’s last fatal drug overdose so far this year on Aug. 22.
Nellis last week said she believes hard drug use is on the rise in Gloversville largely due to its poverty. She said she issued an “Overdose Spike Alert” on Sept. 9, based on there having been three overdose cases over the previous 24 hours. She said that’s the second time she’s issued one of those alerts during her tenure as acting district attorney, which began in January.
“A lot of times we aren’t getting the reports right away, so sometimes we may have been in a spike and didn’t know it, especially with the way they’re getting reported to 911, people are just reporting someone as unconscious, so it’s not even coming across as an OD,” she said. “That’s part of the problem with the lag time with the reports, so we know we definitely had one, but we suspect there were more.”
Marc Hallenbeck, Fulton County’s crime analyst, inputs the data from Fulton County’s police agencies into the HIDTA overdose map. He said sometimes the data will need to be revised. He said about four overdose calls for Gloversville between June 8 and Aug. 10 had to be removed for being incorrect, including one addition that for some reason was inputted into the system from Washington D.C.
Both Hallenbeck and Nellis said they believe the true statistics about drug overdoses are likely higher than the data collected voluntarily from police agencies. Hallenbeck said some drug addicts may be hiding drug overdoses when they make EMS calls where the caller only says the person is “unresponsive.”
“These people are getting used to the police involvement coming to their houses for overdoses, so now they’re turning to making medical excuses to bypass law enforcement involvement,” he said.
Nellis said drug fatalities are also inputted when they are suspected, even though it takes an average of two months before toxicology reports are completed to determine if drugs were the cause of death and what kind of drugs.
Hallenbeck said he’s seen new fatal drug overdoses added to overdose maps months after they occurred, but he’s never seen a suspected drug fatality removed from the system.
Nellis said she knows the GPD has taken additional steps that not every police department takes to make certain EMS calls for unresponsive victims that should be labeled drug overdoses are labeled correctly according to their view of them.
“I know Gloversville, once they go back through the reports and actually read them, they will modify it and say ‘no, this was an actual overdose,'” she said. “Gloversville has really been taking a proactive stance with this, which is why they are so diligent in their reporting.”
Hallenbeck and Nellis said the geographical information in the HIDTA overdose map is not released to the public, although it is helpful to law enforcement, enabling them to see patterns in where the overdoses are occurring. Hallenbeck said he believes the data entry program is also helpful in that its been helping law enforcement connect people with drug addictions to resources to help them.
The GPD in their news release Thursday included contact information for the St. Mary’s Healthcare Mental Health Addiction Helpline at 518-842-9111 and the Rob Constantine Recovery Center Peer Support Helpline at 518-705-4627. Both numbers are accessible 24/7.