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  • Rich Klein

Talks Underway To Bring In-Patient Substance Abuse Unit To Hospital

Legislature set to revise new resolution from 'gun friendly county" to "Second Amendment Friendly" county

MONTICELLO - Preliminary talks are underway to bring an in-patient substance abuse unit to Garnet Health/Catskills, according to Wendy Brown. Deputy Commissioner of Health & Human Services, who also coordinates the County's Opioid Task Force.

Screenshot from live stream of this morning's meeting of the Public Safety Committee of the County Legislature

Brown told the Sullivan County Legislature's Public Safety Committee this morning that she has had discussions on the issue with Jerry Dunlavey, chief operating officer for Garnet Health Medical Center /Catskills, to bring in an outside provider.

More details were not immediately available.

In his report to the Public Safety Committee, Sullivan County Coroner Albee Bockman warned that the number of local deaths from opioids in 2022 is likely going to exceed the total in 2021.

He said that 34 residents have already died in 2022 (from January through July) compared to a total of 43 fatalities from opioid overdoses in all of 2021.

Bockman said that most of the deaths can be blamed on fentanyl, adding that "unless something is done" on the southern border, little will change.

During public comments, three residents criticized the Legislature for rushing through a resolution that would declare Sullivan as a “gun friendly” county. (The resolution is scheduled to be voted on later this morning during a Special Meeting).

Narrowsburg resident Star Hesse described the process as “legislative arrogance” and described the use of the term ‘gun friendly’ as an oxymoron.

“We don’t need to flaunt our gun culture or throw gasoline on an already-raging fire, “ Hesse said.

Resident Florence Goldfarb said the resolution sounds like “a go-ahead to do whatever it is that you want to do”. Goldfarb said the resolution should include details about what kind of weapons should be allowed into Sullivan.

Resident Liz Kennedy said she was uncomfortable with the title of the resolution as well, something that was echoed by Legislator Nadia Rajsz.

Responding to those concerns. Legislature Chair Rob Doherty suggested that the body change the title to “Second Amendment Friendly” to replace “gun friendly.”

Sheriff Mike Schiff said he was “a little upset” that some residents interpreted the resolution to mean that the County was sending a message that any and all firearms were welcome in Sullivan. “We are not inviting illegal guns and we are not inviting criminals,” Schiff said.

“The crime that’s happening in the streets….they don’t care about the legality of the guns,” he said.

Legislators Joe Perrello and Luis Alvarez said that while they support the resolution, they were not happy (again) with the process in which a resolution is inserted into the agenda at the last minute without the public having time to digest it and comment on it.

Alvarez said the Legislature needs to do a much better job of explaining resolutions to the public before voting on them.

Legislators Mike Brooks, IIa Steingart and Alan Sorensen called for better dialogue on issues like guns that divide the country, particularly when the extreme wings of the Democratic and Republican parties control the messaging.

Sorensen said that while he does not personally carry a firearm, he would feel safer knowing that someone who is licensed to carry at a public forum might be there to protect citizens.

Brooks said that the resolution was a response to a New York State law that takes effect today that restricts gun owners from taking their firearms into certain public places.

“We need to look at violence beyond gun violence,” Brooks said. “The root cause (of violence) is not guns. That's where conversation needs to be focused going forward.”

Legislator Nicholas Salomone, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said that by Sullivan declaring itself a gun friendly county, it might scare off burglars.

Legislature Chair Rob Doherty said the resolution shows that “we are pushing back” against Governor Kathy Hochul’s efforts to limit guns.

“Guns are part of American culture,” Doherty said. “We're talking about legal uses of guns. We as Americans have a right to bear arms. It's in the 2nd Amendment. We're going to push back whenever we are pushed.”

Governor Kathy Hochul spoke at a news conference yesterday to explain the new gun laws. Here's an excerpt from her remarks:

"And these will strengthen the background checks and the gun safety training requirements, prohibit concealed carry in secure, sensitive locations, and require permit renewals every three years instead of five years. And on September 4th, a law to raise the age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon, we raised it to 21, that goes into effect. We passed that in the aftermaths of the Buffalo massacre because none of us think that a teenager should be able to purchase an AR-15. Actually, most of us think that no one should be able to purchase an AR-15, but we have to be, we are constrained by federal laws.

"So, let's get in the details of what these laws will do. Under the Supreme Court's ruling, they would say anyone who wants a concealed carry permit could easily get one. We had a standard in place, that you had have a proper cause, you had to have a rationale for it. So, we have to deal with the fact that we believe that people will be able to secure these onto the ruling should go have a more comprehensive background check, and an in-person interview. Household members' contact information, as well as reviewing social media. They also will undergo a 16-hour classroom training and a two-hour live firearm training safety course. And we will be the first state to require training for firearm permits, but it makes sense. Under the old laws, some counties required, but many did not. So, it's time to standardize this across the State of New York.

"So, it's time to standardize this across the State of New York. We developed new standards. It'll include training, make sure that gun owners have the skills, the knowledge necessary to carry, to store their guns because we're not stripping the right away. We're just saying you have to do it in a very responsible way. And we believe that the training is going to be significant and educate them about other topics, how to keep people safe. Conflict de-escalation because when people are in conflict and they happen to be legally carrying concealed weapons now, there's a high risk that'll escalate into something that is going to be fatal.

"Talk about suicide prevention, use of deadly force, and all this is going to occur because of our response that we're now going to raise the bar and make sure that people are truly responsible gun owners once they receive a permit.

"And what else did the Supreme Court do to jeopardize safety in our streets, which is the only way you can, the only conclusion you could draw from what they did?

"They said that those who have concealed carry permits can pretty much take them anywhere they want. In response, we had to come up with a list of sensitive locations where guns are prohibited.

"These sensitive locations will include schools, colleges, daycares, libraries, restaurants that serve alcohol, other places, parks, places, people visit work. We have a whole list. We have a long website, encourage you to look at that. And also, we added Times Square. The Supreme Court said you cannot carve out the entire borough of Manhattan, for example. We did not. We were rational. We asked the City to partner with us, the City Council. And I thank you. You'll hear more about what they have done to make sure that people coming to a place as iconic and heavily trafficked as Times Square will feel safe. And that was important to all of us. So that is going to be in effect as of tomorrow as well.

"We also bolstered our safe storage requirements. Our law created the presumption that if doesn't want to carry a weapon, someone in a store doesn't want them to someone to carry a weapon in, they won't be able to do so. We left, firearms in vehicles had to be locked.

A lot of firearms are stolen out of vehicles. They have to be locked. And also, if you live in a household with children under 18, their house, the gun has to be stored legally. So other changes are coming. As I mentioned, you know, 18-year-olds not being able to purchase assault weapons, that's good. We're making sure that information is out there.

And I want to make sure that there's a public education campaign so that people who do legally possess this now under the Supreme Court ruling will understand that there are rules of the road that you must follow. And law enforcement will be making sure that you do follow these. That is what we're doing here in the State of New York to make sure that people are safe.

"We also had to double down on other solutions that we know make sense. That's why we, in our budget, we have an historic $227 million investment in gun violence prevention. It is far better to prevent the crimes. Giving alternatives to young people, trying to have safe streets investing in our law enforcement so they have the tools they need, which we believe is an important priority. So, we've tripled the amount of money that has been allocated in the past for these purposes.

"We also expanded our red flag laws. We talked about this, the red flag law, commonsense, opposed by many, which is shocking to me. But all it does is say when you see the signs, the dots are there waiting to be connected, you have a right to connect them and say yes, based on these signs, this individual could do harm to themselves or to others, and therefore should not have access to firearms. So, we expanded those laws.

The number of Orders of Protection, extreme Order of Protections filed by our own State Police, is up 94 percent. It's extraordinary. We talked about what we're doing here in the City, Suffolk County's number one in the state in terms of issuing these red flag orders. They're saving lives, but also we want to make sure that we are thoughtful in our response."


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