MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County’s Quick Response Team (QRT), which helps people with opioid addiction and overdose problems has received a $50,000 grant to help mentor Madison County, Kentucky as they develop their own QRT.
The grant will run for six months, it was awarded in Jan. 2020 through the Overdose Prevention and Response Mentorship Program and comes from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), of which the Monongalia County Health Department (MCHD) is a member, according to a MCHD press release.
The QRT consists of MCHD, the fire department, Emergency Medical Services, a local pharmacist, law enforcement and Program Enhancing Education, Recovery and Survival (PEERS) Coaches.
The QRT receives information about an overdose from 911, EMS or a police department and then sends information to PEERS recovery coaches, all of whom are in recovery, who then try to make contact with the individual who overdosed within 72 hours of the incident. This is what the team from Madison Co. will be hoping to learn through their mentorship.
“I really think that all substance use treatments or interventions are collaborations so they’re going to have different capacities,” Jon Dower, the director of operations at West Virginia Sober Living, the umbrella organization for PEERS. “They’re going to have different resources, so we would look to see how they utilize their resources in their county, based on what’s available and how can we take that information back to our county to strengthen our model and to be able to help more people.”
Brittany Irick, MCHD’S QRT coordinator, and Special Projects grants coordinator, also said she thought the opportunity would be a good chance for both communities. She added that the collaboration would work as follows.
“We’ll have them come here to see how we do things and then we’ll give them a few months to kind of put things together in their own county,” Irick said. “And then in a few months we’ll go down and visit them and that’ll be an opportunity to learn about what’s going on there and we might learn a new approach that we can implement in our own QRT.”
Madison, like Monongalia Co., has had a long battle dealing with the opiate crisis. According to a MCHD press release, the two health departments were matched by NACCHO based on what Monongalia County Health Department and what Madison County Health Department listed as a need: coordinator of local substance misuse efforts.
According to the release, Madison is tied for first among Kentucky’s 120 counties in overdose deaths; 45% of the county’s syringe services program have experienced an overdose. Also, of the 378 overdose visits at local emergency departments in 2018, 337 involved opioids.
The release continues to state that as of November 2019, the county had surpassed the number of opioid-related deaths in 2019 with 47, compared to the 46 in 2018. The plan is to make this year and subsequent ones see a reduced amount of opioid-related deaths and help combat addiction by teaching Madison Co. Health Department officials how to implement Monongalia County’s system.
“We utilize PEER Recovery coaches as a means of direct intervention with those individuals that recently overdosed,” Dower said. “We believe that that allows quicker rapport building, allows the individual to be able to know that the person that they’re talking to has actually walked a mile in their shoes, has been able to experience substance misuse in their own history and really allows that trust that you may not find with first responders being the mechanism to intervene on these cases.”
According to the MCHD press release, of the 139 clients that have been contacted since the QRT started in May 2019, 37 percent have been referred to or connected with treatment of harm reduction services.
Officials from Madison Co. will attend a weekly QRT meeting on Friday, March 6 and will have the opportunity to meet with individual agencies of the QRT and do things like riding along with first responders.
Irick said the mentorship speaks a lot to their continuing success to help battle substance abuse in the county.
“It’s been a long road getting to where we are now and I think our QRT has come a long way,” Irock said. “We have a lot to show and we’re proud of it so I think it’s really great that we get to help this other county out.”