What is TCC doing to combat the overdose crisis?
By: Billie Taylor, Quick Response Team Leader, CDCA
The state of Ohio has seen a huge increase in overdose death over the last decade. This predicament has presented numerous problems for individuals actively using, agencies providing treatment, and emergency first responders. The overdose crisis is a lethal threat to Ohioans and stretched the resources of our local communities to a breaking point.
In 2017, with the support of our area ADAMHS Board, The Counseling Center began operating the Opioid Response Team (ORT). The role of this team was to dispatch staff to the emergency room to intervene with an individual following an acute overdose and link them with treatment information and referrals. While this program saw success, as the frequency and lethality of overdose increased, the number of calls for the teams’ assistance declined. Does this mean that we solved the overdose problem?
Unfortunately, as overdose became more commonplace within the community, individuals with substance use disorders became less likely to accept medical help past their initial treatment from EMS. More individuals refused to go to the hospital, and thus, fewer calls for the ORT were made.
Luckily, in The Comeback City, people are not afraid to get involved and address a problem head-on. The Counseling Center was approached by a member of the Portsmouth Fire Department, who operates emergency medical services within the city limits, and the idea of a team that could dispatch directly to the scene of an overdose was born.
Today, this team is known as the Quick Response Team (QRT). Through community partnerships and continued funding secured by the ADAMHS Board, TCC has been able to adapt the model of ORT and make it more effective for the current climate of the needs we have locally.
QRT is made up of trained addiction and mental health staff comprised of social workers, counselors, and other specialists. We partner with emergency first-responders from the Portsmouth Fire Department, New Boston Fire Department, and the Portsmouth Sub-Station Fire Department in Sciotoville.
QRT works on-scene with paramedics and emergency services personnel at the initial time of overdose to provide in-home or on-scene triage of the overdose victim. Our team assists in reducing overdose fatalities through the effective use of enhanced education, prevention, analyzing drug trends, and coordinated response efforts with first-response units. On scene, QRT meets with overdose victims to assess the individual’s needs, develop a personalized plan for intervention, and connect that person and their family to available local resources.
The team collects data including age, gender, substance abuse histories, overdose frequency and locations, acceptance or refusal of medical and/or treatment services. We work to follow up with overdose victims as a means to prevent or reduce, the deaths associated with heroin, opioids, and fentanyl. Follow-ups are typically conducted 3-5 days after the initial overdose call, if possible.
Some of the services we are able to link overdose victims and families with include medical and healthcare-related services, withdrawal management, crisis management, and addiction and mental health services.
Our team operates 24/7 in coordination with emergency first-responders to provide support and access to community resources to help victims and families of overdose achieve recovery. In addition to our on-scene response QRT works to provide the community with access to Naloxone and the necessary education needed to learn how to use it appropriately to save the lives of community members that struggle with addiction and mental health.