Health officials addressing local drug problem

Cary Ashby • Apr 29, 2019 at 2:00 PM

The Huron County Quick Response Team (QRT) is planning on doing overdose-related visits twice a week.

Kristen Cardone, executive director of the Huron County Board of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS), also told Huron County commissioners the team originally was going out “at least once a week.”

She said the QRT recently started doing two visits a week in order to meet with a person within 72 hours of an overdose, but she noted that some of the visits didn’t happen because some of the incidents resulted in a death.

The QRT initiative started in late October 2017. It is a collaboration between the Huron County Sheriff’s Office, Norwalk Police Department, Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services, Family Life Counseling, certified peer supporters and MHAS. Participants early in the program said the focus was on enforcement, education, prevention and treatment to potentially reduce the instances of overdoses in the county and get the overdose victim to treatment or a support service.

Also, Cardone clarified a news report about a $65.9 million federal research addiction study to address the opioid epidemic. Huron County is one of the 19 participating counties. Cardone said the counties weren’t chosen at random, as had been reported, but instead health officials didn’t want counties that border each other.

“They were very selective in what it looked like,” the MHAS executive director told the commissioners.

The Ohio State University will lead a consortium of academic, state and community partners that aims to reduce overdose deaths by 40 percent over three years by testing prevention and treatment options. The initiative is part of the federal HEALing Communities Study. In addition to OSU, grant awards were issued to the University of Kentucky, Boston Medical Center in Boston and Columbia University in New York City.

Announced in mid-April, the initiative will use real-time research to focus on prevention, treatment and recovery programs in Ohio, which has been hit especially hard by opioid deaths, according to Ohio State news. The state grant is part of more than $350 million committed to the HEALing Communities Study. The study is funded and supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“This initiative will advance the most effective solutions to the opioid crisis and bring them to scale quickly,” OSU President Michael V. Drake said in a prepared statement. “We are committed to doing everything we can to end this public health crisis in our state and, through our example, beyond.”

In 2017, 4,293 Ohioans died from opioid-related overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With that toll, Ohio experienced 39.2 opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 people, a rate that is second only to West Virginia.

The Ohio consortium brings together experts from six universities — Ohio State, the University of Cincinnati, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio University, The University of Toledo and Wright State University — and leaders from state agencies and community organizations. Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration is part of the research consortium.

“By participating in the HEALing Communities Study, Ohio can expand its efforts to address the substance use crisis that is taking a toll on families across the state in a comprehensive (and) collaborative way. The study joins my RecoveryOhio initiative with several of our state’s universities to improve and evaluate our state’s community-level infrastructure with the goal of reducing overdose deaths, encouraging treatment and supporting recovery for all Ohioans,” DeWine said soon after the announcement of the initiative.

Cardone, during the commissioners meeting Tuesday, said one piece of the initiative is implementing intervention.

“They really want us to think outside of the box,” she added.

While there is a four-year funding plan, Cardone said the details are in the process of being worked out.

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