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Law enforcement and addiction services partner up to address opioid problem

Karlee Steffanni • Updated Sep 8, 2017 at 6:34 PM

A local organization and law enforcement are seeking grant money to help fight the growing drug epidemic facing the county. 

The Huron County Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS) Board has applied for the grant to address the opioid epidemic in Huron County. The grant, which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is called the First Responders Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act Cooperative Agreement (FR-CARA). 

According to the SAMHSA website, the purpose of the grant is to “allow first responders and members of other key community sectors to administer a drug or device approved or cleared under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose.”

If awarded, the county stands to receive between $250,000 to $800,000 for up to four years.

Executive MHAS board director Beth B. Williams said the funds would be used to target the opioid problem in collaboration with the three area hospitals, Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services and all the first line responders.

Specifically, Williams said the goal is to supplement the county’s Naloxone (or Narcan) budget and to provide training for first responders.

Williams also said the board is working with other local agencies to establish a Quick Response Team (QRT) within the county. 

QRTs are made up of law enforcement officers partnering with drug treatment providers and others who assist overdose survivors in the recovery process. Team members visit survivors after an overdose and offer counseling and referrals to drug rehabilitation facilities for assessment, detoxification, ongoing drug treatment, and aftercare.

The executive board director said she thinks a QRT will help the county start to solve its opioid problem.

“It’s sort of exciting trying to start this because I think it can make an impact,” she said.

Norwalk Police Chief Dave Light attended the most recent MHAS board meeting regarding the issue on Sept. 5, along with staff members from both MHAS and Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services.

Light said he is open to new approaches in relation to the opioid problem. 

“We’re in a real mess around here,” he said.

Sheriff Todd Corbin has also been involved in the discussion. 

Williams said the sheriff was unable to attend the Sept. 5 meeting due to illness, but has been in contact and seemed very receptive. Corbin was unavailable for comment Thursday.

If granted the FR-CARA, Williams said the funds will be used to implement a QRT, but the board intends to move forward in establishing one regardless.

“It’s not really an expensive endeavor,” she said. “We are just establishing procedures and policies.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that $3 million in grants will be awarded to 40 law enforcement departments and their partners to help replicate or expand QRTs and similar entities in counties across Ohio.

Williams said she was already in the process of applying the FR-CARA grant when the attorney general grant was announced.

“I couldn’t apply for both,” she said.

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