Marshall University is providing key support for a collaborative effort among law enforcement, medical care providers, mental health agencies and university researchers to bring a rapid response to the opioid epidemic in Huntington.
The Quick Response Team (QRT), a multifaceted and multidisciplinary team that provides support to individuals within 72 hours of experiencing a drug overdose, is already showing early successes. The team, which began its work earlier this month, assesses an individual’s needs, symptoms and strengths to determine an appropriate plan for intervention.
This assessment includes improving access and reducing barriers to recovery and treatment services. Family members are also engaged in the planning process and screened for their own substance abuse risk level. QRT members will also provide overdose education, screening, risk-reduction training and naloxone administration training for at-risk individuals, their families and the broader community.
The QRT is deployed 40 hours per week and is comprised of a Huntington Police officer; a paramedic with Cabell County EMS; and a mental health provider from Recovery Point of Huntington, Prestera Center or the Huntington Comprehensive Treatment Center.
The QRT identifies clients based on referrals or records from Cabell County EMS, which responds to all suspected overdose calls in Huntington. The team then responds to the residential address provided and/or the address where the overdose occurred. On each visit, the team provides information such as treatment options, pamphlets and phone numbers with anyone they encounter.
While the QRT is still new in its implementation, it is already showing positive results, said Connie Priddy, compliance officer for Cabell County EMS and coordinator of the QRT. During its first week of work (Dec. 4-8), the QRT attempted to contact 28 individuals, four of whom have entered immediate intervention or treatment.
This is in addition to two individuals who entered treatment last week through interaction with the Huntington Police Department’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. Under this program, a mental health provider from Prestera Health accompanies police officers on suspected overdose calls. The LEAD program is now working in unison with the QRT program.
“The QRT team consists of dedicated, compassionate individuals who are working together toward a common goal of providing much needed intervention and treatment options to individuals who are suffering from addiction,” Priddy said. “We are bringing a personal interaction to affected individuals and their family members in a way that has never been done before.”
Bob Hansen, director of addiction services for Marshall Health and the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, who co-chaired the implementation process with Priddy, said the QRT is based on a similar outreach in Colerain, Ohio, and was developed over the past year. The university will provide ongoing monitoring and assessment that will allow team members to make adjustments to their response efforts based on data collection and thorough analysis.
“Our group determined early on that this type of follow-up was a missing piece of the region’s response to the crisis,” Hansen said. “It’s been an incredible collaboration that has occurred among multiple agencies and there’s been a high level of enthusiasm from the participants. I’ve been a part of this process since the beginning and am very encouraged about our successful progress.”
The City of Huntington was awarded a three-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and a three-year, $1.05 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health for the QRT program. The Huntington Police Department, Cabell County EMS, Prestera Center, Huntington Comprehensive Treatment Center, Recovery Point of Huntington, Huntington Black Pastors Association, Marshall University Department of Public Health, the Marshall University Student Health Department’s Wellness Center, and the Huntington Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy will all play a role in administering the grants.
“Huntington is a proactive community that helps identify solutions related to the opioid epidemic that can be replicated across the country,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “This funding will significantly improve the collaboration, engagement and hope necessary to overcome the epidemic.
“I applaud all of the law enforcement officials, university researchers, faith-based leaders, medical care providers and treatment and recovery centers that have worked tirelessly to secure this funding,” Williams added. “The City of Huntington also extends our gratitude to our congressional delegation for their unrelenting support of our initiatives.”
Photo: Bob Hansen, director of addiction services for Marshall Health and the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine