In photo. Natalie Sawyer, Health Education Director at Southern Seven Health Department; Haley Duke, Hardin County Hospital Clinic Director; Alisha Foster, Hardin County Opioid Response Project Coordinator; Sherrie Crabb, Family Counseling Center CEO; Kerie Moore, Chief Strategy Officer and Project Director.
By Jennifer Lane
Family Counseling Center, Inc staff in collaboration with Hardin County General Hospital and Clinic, Southern Seven Head Start, SIU School of Medicine, and Prevention First are more equipped to fight the opioid crisis in Hardin County thanks to a $200,000 Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) federal planning grant that Family Counseling Center received last September. The Rural Communities Opioid Response Program provides a plan of action offering support and resources to those who are addicted to prescription pain medicine and illicit drugs.
The above named behavioral and public health agencies along with law enforcement are working together to better identify those who are suffering with addiction and then finding purposeful evidence based strategies to address the problem. Together, they have identified several approaches to reduce opioid misuse and the consequences that follow.
Although Family Counseling Center hasn’t received grant funding for implementation, only planning, Opioid Response Program Coordinator, Alisha Foster says they have several measures in place to address the opioid crisis in Hardin County. Foster outlined some of the approaches listed as part of the program at the Opioid Response Program Planning Consortium Open House Monday at Hardin County General Hospital. Various measures listed below will be carried out at different locations throughout Hardin County.
• Hospital Emergency Department Policies: Emergency room policies and procedures will be re-evaluated and updated to identify when the use of controlled substances causes more risks than benefits for a patient. Alternative methods may be used to improve patient safety and comfort in order to reduce access to opioids.
• Harm Reduction: Naloxone Distribution – Naloxone is an opioid antagonist used for the complete or partial reversal of opioid overdose to save an individual’s life. Overdose Education and Nolaxone will be provided to first responders, patients, and family members to reduce harm and overdose from prescribed and illicit opioids.
• Community Education: A communication campaign specific to Hardin County will be promoted to increase knowledge about how opioid abuse occurs. In addition, the campaign “Be the One” will promote help-seeking behaviors and emotional well-being practices.
• Diversion Control: Drug take-back programs will be established so that prescription medication taken by those who were prescribed it can safely dispose of medicine, an effort to prevent others from gaining access to it. The Hardin County Sheriff’s Department and Hardin County Pharmacy are two locations being discussed for this service.
• Workforce Development: For better response and outcomes, training on evidence based practices and more behavioral health topics will be provided to those who work around individuals who use opioids or are at risk of substance use.
• Police Deflection: Family Counseling Center will work with local law enforcement agencies to create non-arrest programs to prevent and reduce overdose deaths and expand access to treatment and recovery. Under specified circumstances, individuals may report their opioid addiction to the department in order to get professional support and assistance. This program will be similar to the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) already used in other areas.
• Substance Use Treatment and Support: An individual who is using, or at-risk of using substances will be screened, given brief intervention, and then referred to treatment where collaboration of behavioral and primary health providers will offer treatment and recovery services. Those services may include: Medication-Assisted Treatment, inpatient and outpatient services, and peer recovery coaches.
Foster says in addition to providing a variety of resources, she hopes that the program will reduce the stigma associated with substance use.
“In order to improve access to treatment, it is vital to reduce the stigma associated with substance use, given that stigma can be one of the most significant barriers for someone getting the help they need,” said Foster. “A person is more than their substance use concerns and there is hope for all involved. The opioid response planning grant has provided the opportunity to get this conversation started among medical providers, community members, faith-based organizations, and other community stakeholders. But it can’t stop here. Now is the time to take action and show the community that we are in this together and what matters is the overall wellbeing of each person in order for them to live up to their highest potential.”
Individuals who are reading this and want help stopping opioid use may call Family Counseling Center, Inc. at 618-287-7010. The community will be kept up to date as additional resources and services are launched over the next year.