Rensselaer County officials are not only keeping a close eye on COVID-19 but also on drug overdoses because they’ve seen a surge in recent weeks.

“People with substance abuse disorder always have difficulty. It’s a difficult road,” said Mary Fran Wachunas, the Rensselaer County Public Health director. “But during this time, it’s a little bit more for them.”

She says there have been eight overdoses in the last two weeks. Compared to this point last year, she says that’s six cases over.

“There’s definitely services out there, so don’t think that because we’re dedicating all our time to COVID-19, that there isn’t any services,” Wachunas said.

One of those services is getting naloxone into homes. Wachunas says they’ve developed a system where residents can text “Narcan” to 21000 to receive the overdose reversal drug. The program started on Monday.

“We need to think about harm reduction,” said Keith Stack, the executive director at the Addiction Care Center of Albany.

He says making Narcan available is crucial, especially now for people in recovery, who may feel cut off from their support network.

“Recovery is really based on interacting with another person in recovering. Going to 12-step meetings,” Stack said.

Stack says many of these meetings are now being held online. And he says that’s something those in recovery need to know. Stack says this helps people stay in contact with their support network by videoconference or phone.

“Support and help are still available. It may not seem like it but it is,” Stack said.