As the heroin/opiate epidemic continues, Thom Grim said he’s cautiously optimistic, thanks to community response that has grown during the past year in Miami County.
Grim, executive director of the Miami County Recovery Council (MCRC), said the Miami County Heroin Coalition formed in January 2016 has played a key role of bringing together those in law enforcement, the courts, the social services, treatment, health, government and faith-based organizations.
“We have more tools to offer people than we did last year,” Grim said. “I am cautiously optimistic, but am tired of the overdoses. They keep happening; don’t seem to be backing off.”
A large public awareness event – Hope Over Heroin – was held at the county fairgrounds in July offering information on the problem, treatment agencies and other support, including faith-based.
After the event, heroin overdoses in the county declined for about three months, said Steven Justice, a Troy lawyer who has served as coalition facilitator.
“But in the last quarter, or October to January, the numbers were up and in some cases higher,” he said.
Information from the county health department showed that while more people overdosed in Troy, Piqua and Tipp City, the highest rate per capita was in the West Milton area, Justice said.
Such information helps the coalition as it works on efforts to educate and provide services, he said.
Sheriff Dave Duchak, a coalition member, said heroin is becoming more lethal because of the fentanyl and other deadly agents being mixed with it. Deputies first were provided with Narcan kits in May 2016. Since then, four kits have been used, he said.
The sheriff’s office continues to partner with the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health on use of the Vivitrol capsule that reduces craving for addicts in the jail, Duchak said. Tri-County staff follows up with those inmates after they have been released, he said.
During the past year, the coalition has initiated or supported a number of programs in addition to Hope Over Heroin. Among the efforts have been a resources brochure, a system of care flow chart and training on administering Narcan.
Among the most recent efforts was the opening in mid-January of the Hope House, a social detox residential program for up to five men. Initial funding for the program came from foundations and the Tri-County Board, Grim said.
The program is using a new device, the Bridge. The device attaches to the ear and sends neuro-modulating electronic signals to the area of the brain that experiences pain and symptoms of opiate withdrawal, reducing those symptoms, Grim said.
Justice said a similar residential detox program for women is being targeted.
Another approach to detox is being used by Recovery & Wellness in Miami County, he said. This nonresidential program uses a combination of small doses of Vivitrol, comfort medications and counseling.
In the city of Troy, representatives of the police and fire departments and an MCRC addiction specialist make up a Quick Response Team (QRT) that visits those who have been revived from heroin overdose to see if they are willing to enter treatment/counseling.
The team has visited more than 90 people so far, Justice said.
“I am pleased with this program of reaching out to people. It is bearing fruit for us,” Grim said.
Work also is under way on a school education and prevention program that is expected to be piloted yet this school year, Justice said.
Duchak said he has been pleased with the coalition’s work so far.
“It has been a truly collaborative effort across a wide array of disciplines that usually would not interact that much with each other,” Duchak said. “I cannot speak highly enough of everyone who serves on the coalition. I am hopeful that the federal government begins to become more engaged on what I believe is a national health crisis.”