Opioid epidemic: Lake County’s Quick Response Team helping addicts find treatment

Lake County’s Quick Response Team is still in its infancy, but it’s making progress.

That is the observation of Concord Township Fire Chief Matt Sabo about the pilot program between the Lake County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Concord Township Fire Department and Perry Village Police Department that was launched in November.

The program’s goal is to connect more people who are struggling with addiction disorders with treatment services.

According to the ADAMHS Board, the program works like this:

When a resident requires medical treatment after a drug overdose, a Quick Response Team will visit that person a few days later. Sabo said it’s usually not when the person is in the hospital, but in those following days where the overdose victim is more receptive to information about treatment service.

The response teams are comprised of some combination of a law enforcement officer, firefighter or EMT and a behavioral health professional. The team members are not in uniform during the visits and arrive in unmarked vehicles and are prominently wearing QRT IDs.

ADAMHS Board Executive Director Kim Fraser said that helps lessen the chance that a person misinterprets the nature of the visit.

“Remember, this is someone who recently overdosed, and the objective is to facilitate access to help treatment,” she said. “We can’t accomplish this if someone’s afraid to open their door because they think they’re in trouble.”

Their objective isn’t punitive, Sabo said; they’re there because they care.

The team starts by introducing themselves, explaining QRT and expressing concern for the individuals health and safety. If the person is living with family members, the team may ask permission to include them in the conversation. Teams are equipped with brochures that offer information on various treatment recourse through the ADAMHS network.

Lake County Sheriff’s Captain Ron Walters is the “point guard” for coordinating incoming data on overdose calls with QRT team visits.

Walters said if a person indicates they’re ready to accept help during the visit, the team will offer to immediately transport them to treatment.

If they’re not ready, the team leaves the person with the handouts and makes it clear what to do when the time comes, Walters said. In most cases that involves a call to the ADAMHS Board’s Compass Line.

The Compass Line connects callers with a triage specialist who knows the ins and outs of all the ADAMHS system treatment programs. The ADAMHS Board states this help “dramatically streamline the process of getting help.”

The line can be reached at 440-350-2000 or 440-918-2000.

Teams always stress that a “range of inpatient and outpatient treatment options are available, and that insurance issues should not impact someone’s ability to get help,” according to the ADAMHS Board.

“This is significant because it’s law enforcement, behavioral health and fire/EMT departments working in harmony,” Walters said. “We all understand that improving access to treatment needs to be a higher priority than simply putting more people in jail. Everyone involved feels like this effort is going to save lives. That’s an exciting thing to be a part of.“

Sabo said QRT is in a sense both reactive and proactive. It’s reactive because they’re responding after an overdose call. In another sense, it’s proactive because it’s getting people at risk resources faster than they would get them themselves.

QRT doesn’t take away the essential importance of early education — especially in schools — Sabo said.

The inspiration for the Quick Response Team came from Colerain Township in Hamilton County in Southwest Ohio. The township’s QRT began in July 2015. In September the Lake County Sheriff’s Office received an $80,000 grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to help launch the program locally.

The program is now available throughout the county to cities and townships that agree to provide overdose information to the core QRT team.

“The bottom line is there is help available for Lake County residents who are struggling with substance abuse disorders,” Fraser said. “Asking our QRT team to visit a loved one is an option, but that’s just one of several paths to treatment. A call to our Compass Line is the right place to start.”

Published by the News-Herald

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