Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa informed the Lloyd Town Board on steps that his department and the Urgent Task Force is taking to combat the burgeoning opioid crisis that is facing the county.
URGENT stands for Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team.
When Figueroa came into office in 2018 he began to re-evaluate how the county was going to deal with this crisis, “not just by strictly arresting people but by having a multi-faceted approach to the problem.”
The Sheriff said his department cannot do it alone.
“We need the help of local law enforcement and a team concept is what is going to make this successful,” he said.
URGENT is comprised of officers from various municipalities within Ulster County.
“They bring a concept of going after the dealers that are putting fentanyl and heroin and the different types of drugs throughout the county,” he said. “In 2018 Ulster County was the second highest county in New York State with overdose deaths and overdoses; it was a tragic year. This year is going to be just as bad but not worse and it’s because of the pandemic.”
Since last year the county started a program called Oracle – Opioid Response As County Law Enforcement - “and for the first time in Law Enforcement we have decided that we are going to help people by putting them into rehab rather than just arresting them.”
He said URGENT is focused more on going after the sources of the drug trade, rather than the small time street dealers, that are outside the county.” He said Oracle helps families deal with the negative stigma of having a loved one caught up in the opioid epidemic.
The Sheriff said a recent $900,000 federal grant will allow him to hire of a social worker, two peer advocates and a part-time administrative assistant. He said those who are suffering from addiction, “will have access to every law enforcement entity in the county. The [Lloyd] Police Chief will be able to pick up the phone and get that team down here when he needs it. So that, along with URGENT and Oracle, is what we bring to the table and how important it is to have that partnership with local law enforcement.”
Sheriff Figueroa introduced attorney Jared Blades, the new commander of the URGENT Task Force, who will provide civilian oversight of the unit. He is an Ellenville native, spent two years in the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office and the last 5 years serving in the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office. He has worked with URGENT members of the Kingston Police Department and the NYS Police, with a focus on narcotics and violent gang felony cases.
Blades said no search warrant is executed without his review and approval and he is the liaison with the District Attorney’s Office, specifically for URGENT.
Since his appointment in June, Blades said there has been a new approach instituted to the opioid problem.
“We drew a line in the sand and said we need to attack this opioid epidemic a different way. We need to go after the source, we need better cases, long-term investigations, better surveillance; we need to bring a better product to be able to put a dent in and curb the sale of poison in this county.”
Blades said a new emphasis is being put toward helping those who have been suffering from addiction receive treatment, while going after and arresting those who peddle drugs to the communities in Ulster County. He said just a few weeks ago the task force, along with assistance of the Lloyd Police Department, was able to make an arrest in a raid on a long-term fentanyl pill ring.
Figueroa said there will be crisis intervention training available to all local police departments.
“The social workers are going to tailor a program, not just for opioid addiction, but for any addiction and to include mental health issues,” he said. “What is important about the training is that it shows local law enforcement what to look for when they go to a location and it gives them the necessary tools to be able to recognize mental health problems.”
Lloyd Police Chief James Janso said six members of his department have already been trained in crisis intervention. He added that they utilize the services of Oracle when needed and also tap into a program that assists homeless Veterans.
“We’re using whatever assets we are given and we make it work,” he said.
Councilman Lenny Auchmoody thanked the Sheriff and Chief Janso, acknowledging that a local Lloyd Officer will be assisting the Task Force.
“We are extremely proud of our Police Department and they are going to be an asset to URGENT,” he said. “We have all the faith in the world in these guys.”
Other Police News
The Town Board hired Cole Nicolis as a part time dispatcher at $18.35/hr and Kaylee Gannon as a part time Police Officer at $21.20/hr.
Janso said Cole Nicolis recently graduated with a BA in Criminal Justice, “and will be starting his criminal justice career with us and Kaylee Gannon is a graduate of the Dutchess County Law Enforcement Academy. She’s young, she’s eager and I think she will be an asset to our department.”
Janso presented a special Lifesaving Award to Officer Nick Paradies. Janso said on October 7, 2020 Officer Paradies responded to a call of an infant who was choking. Upon arrival he located the infant who was unconscious, was not breathing and appeared pale in color. Paradies checked the child’s airway, patted the child’s back and then administered chest compressions, with the child regaining consciousness. Mobile Life Services arrived and transported the child to Vassar Hospital.
“The baby was two weeks old. His quick response and professionalism saved that baby’s life,” Janso said. “Not only did he save a life, he went back the following day to check on the family and the baby. He is to be commended for his outstanding job; that’s what we do, we’re here for the public and we’re here for our community. Nick I am proud to present you with a Lifesaving Award.”