The Highland County Quick Response Team deployed officially for the first time Wednesday morning.
The team is comprised of local officials and professionals who visit the homes of people struggling with drug abuse and offer treatment resources,
Representatives with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District and Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Center reportedly made two visits on Wednesday, and were able to make direct contact with one individual who had recently overdosed.
Creed Culbreath, a part-time investigator with the Highland County Coroner’s Office who has done similar visits by himself in the past and now deploys with the group, said the visit “came out with a really positive plan.”
“To their credit, this individual had already, before our visit, made a decision to re-enter recovery, yet things were not working as well as they wanted,” Culbreath said. “We were basically able to say, ‘Hey, you’re not in this alone. There’s four people here and multiple organizations behind them that are dedicated to helping you.’”
Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner said the health department was working on follow-up procedures later in the day Wednesday.
According to Warner, the QRT will from now on deploy on Wednesdays after receiving “referrals” from law enforcement and EMS services when someone overdoses or is suspected of having a drug abuse problem.
Culbreath, who serves as the group’s hospital liaison, gathers referrals from local medical facilities as well.
While the QRT was unable to make direct contact with the referral at the other home, Culbreath said team members gave literature packets to other people at the residence.
Paint Creek Chief Dave Manning, who also went out with the QRT on Wednesday, said he was happy to be a part of the initiative.
“It’s pretty exciting that we actually deployed,” he said. “We want to do anything we possibly can to assist those members of the community who need it. Certainly, if we can make a positive impact on the community… that’s what we want to do.”
Monica Baucher, the residential team leader at the Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Center’s Lynn Goff Clinic in Greenfield, said the QRT’s first deployment “went really well.”
“It was good to be able to just be there and offer support and help,” Baucher said. “My role was… to shed light on what barriers I can break down to help them get into treatment faster.”
Baucher said the QRT will go a long way toward breaking stigmas often associated with addiction and mental illness.
“I think (the QRT) stands for hope,” she said. “That’s what we need for this community – to get people to realize there are people out there who care and want to help.”
Heather Gibson, a local activist instrumental in the formation of the QRT, said she was overjoyed Wednesday.
“I feel an overwhelming sense of relief that we have a mechanism in place for post-Narcan,” she said via text message.
Gibson was referring to the brand name for naloxone, a drug that instantly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
As previously reported, the health department has distributed hundreds of free Narcan kits to the public, and while Warner said he knows of at least eight people whose lives have been saved by the medicine, the distribution has been controversial. Some members of the community have expressed concern that Narcan enables drug abuse because it reduces the risk of an overdose.
Gibson said the QRT goes a step further than Narcan by connecting the overdose survivor with the treatment resources they need.
“(Narcan) is not the silver bullet that solves everything, but is an integral and necessary part of a solution,” Gibson said. “I’m so proud that we were able to make this happen and grateful for all involved.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.