State of the County, Molinaro Outlines Social Outreach Programs

SPJ News Service

Amidst concerns toward social outreach funding and the growing opioid epidemic, Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro (R) exemplified the county’s perseverance in combating these issues in his State of the County address.

Molinaro spoke at the Culinary Institute of America’s Marriott Pavilion on February 28, to a crowd of fellow legislators, constituents, and members of law enforcement.

Starting out light-hearted, Molinaro discussed the success of the Think DIFFERENTLY and Think Ahead programs, recreational and career training projects for individuals with special needs and intellectual disabilities.

“We are inspired, truly, when we see the real impact of Think DIFFERENTLY, we hear it in the voices of those often overlooked and we see it in the growing number of people willing to open their hearts and minds to neighbors of all abilities,” Molinaro said.

When talking about the Think DIFFERENTLY trip to a beach, legislator Marge Horton (East Fishkill-R) said “seeing a man who had been paralyzed for over 20 years, sitting in the [ocean] with his grandson…brought tears to [her] eyes.”

Photo Courtesy of Luke Carberry Mogan, SPJ News Service. 

Photo Courtesy of Luke Carberry Mogan, SPJ News Service. 

The tone of the speech shifted when Molinaro addressed the opioid epidemic presence in Dutchess County. He touched upon the stigma certain groups- such as struggling addicts and users- face within the community, “unjustly judged” through “unearned labels.”

“We are too often tragically reminded of the isolation and despair felt by so many,” Molinaro said. “When violence and drugs becomes the only option, for those lonely, broken, and in need of help, we must not only demand more from society, we must also do more ourselves.”

A slideshow stating there were 85 overdose deaths in Dutchess County for 2017 reinforced the county executive’s words. Molinaro, a moderate Republican, encouraged community discourse on drug abuse, proposing increased staffing and availability for drug counselors and recovery coaches within county jails and law enforcement.

Photo Courtesy of Luke Carberry Mogan, SPJ News Service.

Photo Courtesy of Luke Carberry Mogan, SPJ News Service.

“We are expanding our efforts to help those suffering manage their addiction by increasing medication assisted treatment,” Molinaro said, as 392 individuals have been treated with the county’s addiction program, showing an 85 percent success rate and a 72 percent retention rate after six months.

“The opioid epidemic is universal, it’s felt all throughout the country and the nation,” said Marist alumnus and county legislator Will Truitt (Hyde Park/Town of Poughkeepsie-R).

Molinaro attributed the growth of the county’s Mobile Intervention Team to Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison’s (R) vision of having mental health counselors paired with law enforcement to “engage people needing support.”

A father himself, Molinaro connected crisis intervention and crime prevention to public safety regarding the recent Parkland school shooting. He commended Arlington High School student Angela McDevitt for reporting and stopping a friend’s plot to attack his old school in Fair Haven, Maine, last month.

“Two weeks ago, we saw the latest tragic example of another lost son, so hurt, so angry, so alone, that he extinguished the lives of the innocent,” Molinaro said,  a result of “isolation and despair.”

“Too often though, our anger, passions, and ideological differences overshadow our purpose to protect our children.”

More than 20 schools in the county have implemented the Second Step education program, emphasizing communication, empathy, bullying prevention, and even substance abuse prevention training alongside law enforcement.

“We don’t just put police officers in school, we train them in crisis intervention…to insure we get to the heart of the problem,” Molinaro said. “There are kids being picked on, being bullied, being isolated, being tormented, they need help and this may be their first line of defense.”

As of 2017, there were 250 individuals trained to handle crisis intervention within the school system. Molinaro condemned public safety as a partisan issue, and demanded more of the public’s participation and compassion to combat this issue.

“Challenge ourselves to be the helpers, summon the courage to overcome the fear and be the change,” Molinaro said. “The awkwardness of acting pales in comparison to the consequences of inaction and the joy of making a difference. Be kind, be brave, be a helper, break through.”

The Dutchess County Helpline for crisis intervention was displayed in the slideshow as Molinaro spoke: (845)-485-9700.

“In a time of civil discourse, we need to be civil,” said Mayor Rolison on Molinaro’s speaking. “In the city of Poughkeepsie, our goal is to provide assistance to people who need it…this is not missing with Molinaro.”