As a prelude to the formation of a Quick Response Team – a group of law enforcement officers, mental health treatment personnel and people of faith who offer counseling and referrals to treatment programs to those who have recently suffered a drug overdose – a part-time investigator with the Highland County Coroner’s Office has begun voluntarily making “house calls” with overdose victims to help them get back on their feet.
“I think the clinical name for that is ‘motivational interviewing,’” Creed Culbreath told The Times-Gazette.
Culbreath, a Hillsboro resident, former counselor and part-time coroner’s office investigator, said the matter is somewhat personal to him, in part due to some of the investigation’s he’s conducted with the coroner’s office.
“There were a couple of cases… where I knew the victims,” he said. “Dr. Beery knew my concern about the loss, both to the families, the community and so on, and he also knew I had some experience in counseling persons afflicted with addiction in the past, so he asked me if I would be interested in doing this.”
So, in the past week, Culbreath said, he’s been knocking on doors.
“We looked at some recent public records, and out of five offense reports, we were able to make contact with three individuals,” he said.
Culbreath said he was only able to personally connect with one of the three, since the other two were only temporarily staying at the residences listed on the offense reports.
“It was clear they were not living there, and they would not be coming back,” he said. Even so, he said he was able to leave literature and contact information with family members of those two, and expects to follow up eventually.
Culbreath said his experiences so far have been positive, which he said may come as a surprise to some.
“I didn’t know how this was going to be received,” he said. “All three visits were very positive.”
In particular, Culbreath said the one overdose victim he talked to seemed to respond well.
“They had not thought of going into a treatment program until then,” he said. “They said they would definitely consider it. I left a printed copy of what we talked about to consider, or reach out on their own and make contact with organizations.”
Culbreath said the idea of a QRT initially belonged to Beery.
“We began putting together an idea of the scope of the (opiate epidemic), how we could best address it with intervention calls and then look for funding,” he said. “And in the process of waiting for funding, I called him and I said, ‘Really, people are dying. Let’s do something and we’ll worry about the funding later.’”
After attending a planning meeting with Beery, Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition President Heather Gibson, Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera and a number of other treatment professionals and concerned citizens, Culbreath said the vision for the QRT began coming together.
Heather Gibson told The Times-Gazette on Thursday that some funding has been secured for the QRT through a grant awarded to the Highland County Sheriff’s Office from the Ohio Attorney General, but coordinators have not yet received word on when the grant begins.
In addition, Gibson said there are some other matters that need to be resolved before the QRT hits the streets, many of which will be discussed at a “stakeholders” meeting being planned for October.
Until then, she said, Culbreath’s volunteering is a “test run” of sorts.
Culbreath said the QRT is modeled after similar units in other communities, which combine individuals of multiple disciplines to cover separate aspects of treatment referral and counseling.
“You would potentially have law enforcement, somebody from the medical community and clergy going out, making contact with someone who has overdosed, and saying ‘Your life doesn’t have to continue like this. You have options,’” he said.
Culbreath said most of the treatment programs to which the addict is referred are local, with the exception of out-of-county residential treatment centers if that’s what they need.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.