A specialized team of local law enforcement officers, paramedics, mental health professionals, health department staff and people of faith will begin making “house calls” in coming months with people who have overdosed on drugs, an organizer said Friday, and an introductory event for the team will be held next week.
Heather Gibson, president of the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition and CEO of REACH for Tomorrow, a local nonprofit, told The Times-Gazette that the “Quick-Response Team” will field questions from the public at a debut event Tuesday, Jan. 9 at Southern State Community College in Hillsboro.
As reported previously, the group, funded by grants from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Cincinnati nonprofit Interact for Health, is designed to follow up with people who have recently overdosed and encourage them to seek treatment.
The QRT will include representatives of the following entities:
• Highland County Sheriff’s Office.
• Highland County Health Department.
• Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District.
• Lakehouse Ministries.
• REACH for Tomorrow.
• Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health.
Gibson said more entities and individuals are expected to join in the next few months.
According to Gibson, the QRT’s introductory event will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Jan. 9 in the auditorium at Southern State Community College in Hillsboro.
QRT members will be on hand, as well as representatives from the attorney general’s office and Interact for Health.
Members of the Highland County Drug Abuse Coalition, a group instrumental in coordinating the QRT, will give an overview of the coalition’s Community Plan.
The plan, rolled out in August, highlights five specific areas on which resources should be focused, including harm reduction, supply reduction, drug abuse prevention, treatment and advocacy.
“I really encourage the public to come out, because this is going to be the opportunity for them to get questions answered and to understand what the purpose of the QRT is and how it can impact the epidemic,” Gibson said.
Kelly Firesheets of Interact for Health recently said the formation of the QRT is somewhat of a second phase to naloxone distribution programs Interact for Health has sponsored.
Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, is a drug that reverses the effects of opiate overdose, and its free distribution to the public by the Highland County Health Department has become a controversial topic in recent months.
Some officials and community members have said giving naloxone away for free encourages drug abuse since it lessens the risk of dying from an overdose.
Others, like county Health Commissioner Jared Warner, have said any measure to prevent fatalities is worth the cost.
Firesheets recently told The Times-Gazette that Narcan distribution itself actually does little to solve the overall drug problem, since many who overdose and are treated with Narcan tend to go right back to using opiates because of their addiction.
Firesheets said the goal of the QRT is to follow up with those who have survived overdoses and convince them to seek treatment options, adding that it’s “fair to say we haven’t been doing a good job of that.”
The Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition is a group of concerned citizens and officials who meet monthly to exchange ideas and resources for preventing local drug abuse.
The group meets every fourth Thursday of the month at noon in the main conference room at the North High Business Center in Hillsboro.
The coalition can be found on Facebook by searching “Highland County Drug Abuse Coalition.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.