Hamilton County addiction response meets people where they are

A coordinated addiction response in Hamilton County brought more face-to-face encounters last year with helpers and those who needed help with substance use disorder.

The Hamilton County Addiction Response Coalition unveiled its 2021 annual report Friday at the Duke Energy Convention Center downtown.

The novel coronavirus pandemic brought challenges, said coalition chair and county Commissioner Denise Driehaus. “A lot of the work that happens is face to face. … It’s really hard to do when you can’t have face-to-face engagement,” she said. But the annual report shows a significant rise in the strategy that meeting people where they are, on the streets, in emergency situations, at churches, schools and more to guide them to evidence-based treatment and other help.

The coalition released Hamilton County coroner and Ohio Health Department overdose counts through 2021 but noted the numbers are preliminary. Generally, though, both reports show that deaths from overdose in the county have remained relatively stable in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Driehaus said she believes the coalition’s multipronged approach to the epidemic has pushed that stability. Numbers from Hamilton County coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco’s office were: 487 overdose deaths in 2019, 499 in 2020, and 454 (preliminary) in 2021.

“We are talking about people’s lives here,” Driehaus said, “so while the trend is leveling … we are not celebrating. We are still losing folks.”

Here are some key efforts of the coalition last year that continue in 2022:

Fentanyl test strips are sometimes used for harm reduction.  Users will mix powder drugs in water and dip a strip in it to identify whether powerful fentanyl is tainting their drugs.

Expanding what Quick Response Teams do

The coalition has broadened its Quick Response Team efforts but maintained the teams’ original purpose: reaching out to overdose survivors at their homes within days of their overdose to help them get into treatment. The expansion includes peer mentors for drug court participants, a proactive African American male outreach team to address an escalating risk of overdose among those in this demographic, neighborhood meetings with education and hand-outs of fentanyl test strips and naloxone.

From left: Union Township Fire Lt.  Charlie Caudill, Kristy Mudd, a peer support specialist and Jessica Johnson, a counselor case manager with a Quick Response Team, respond to a call, Monday, July 10, 2017, in Union Township.

Prevention partnership work grows

The nonprofit Prevention First has a partnership with the Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program of Cincinnati. A major focus now is youth-led prevention training, said Nicole Schiesler, Prevention First president and CEO. The outreach group held a summer program with faith-based partners and Tikkun Farm in Mount Healthy. Leaders plan another one, and the curriculum will include youth violence prevention, tutoring, urban gardening, culinary arts and more. Among the activities planned: how to care for animals, a petting zoo as social-emotional learning, therapeutic rhythm drumming, fine arts and physical education.

A legacy of distrust: The racial disparities that mean many can be reluctant to seek help

Leave a Comment