Ohio fire dept. encouraged by new addict-assistance program

A team consisting of a police officer, paramedic and a social worker has a goal of meeting with a person who overdosed to connect them with appropriate assistance


By Ed Richter
 Journal-News 

FRANKLIN, Ohio — A six-month-old program aimed at getting help for people addicted to opioids is seeing positive results , according to leaders of the effort.

The city’s heroin quick response team has contacted 65 people who have had an opioid overdose since its launch March 1.

Called the Helping Overdose through Prevention and Education, or HOPE, program, a team consisting of a police officer, paramedic and a social worker has a goal of meeting with a person who overdosed within three to five days to connect them with appropriate assistance.

Franklin Fire Chief Jonathan Westendorf said that assistance could include encouragement, support, counseling, treatment, transportation, communicating, clothing, housing and follow-up. He said the HOPE team gets referrals for health care providers, other first responders and from the courts.

In addition, the HOPE team is attending community events passing out literature about program as well as pocket cards with information on how to identify opioid overdose signs as well as where to get help.

In its first six months of operation, the HOPE team has spent about 240 hours meeting and visiting those who have overdosed, which has resulted in 17 seeking either in-patient or outpatient treatment. In addition, the HOPE team is currently working to get another 12 people into some type of treatment program.

“I’m pretty happy about that,” Westendorf said.

As of Sept. 30, Franklin Fire & EMS personnel have responded to 131 overdose calls, which includes nine opioid deaths. Of that total, 83 of the overdoses were opioid-related, and 48 were from methamphetamines or other unknown drugs. 

In comparison to 2017, Franklin EMS responded to 271 overdose calls that included 24 opioid deaths. Of that total, 231 of the overdoses were opioid-related, and 40 were overdoses from methamphetamines or unknown drugs. 

“A shift is taking place because the number of overdoses are dropping,” Westendorf said. “People are coming to the fire department for help.”

The city’s HOPE team is also working with the state’s DAWN program and has received grants to obtain 504 doses of Narcan and has distributed 234 doses to various first responders such as the Ohio State Highway Patrol posts in Butler, Warren, Montgomery and Greene counties and other agencies in Butler and Warren counties.

Another tool to help is the implementation of Cordata, a software program that local jurisdictions can use to track and use demographic information on overdose patients as well as developing a continuum of care. Westendorf said Franklin started using the new tool on Monday that will help to erase the invisible jurisdictional lines. Due to the federal HIPPA privacy laws, local agencies cannot access patient medical information.

“People are getting lost in the system,” he said. “This will help prevent that.”

Cordata will enable an agency to identify an overdose patient and track them with information that documents previous incidents so that the HOPE team can determine the care they need or to follow up from where they left off. It also identifies other challenges a patient might have such as transportation, child care, insurance and employment.

“It’s a fabulous tool and it will be a major shift in what we’re doing,” he said.

Middletown has been using the Cordata system since December 2017, according to Fire Capt. David Von Bargen.

“It’s good and we like it,” Von Bargen said. “It allows us to manage caseloads and prevent people from falling into gaps. It collects various levels of data so we can check the efficiency of the Heroin Response Team.”

 

Westendorf said he is working on partnerships with other agencies and nonprofits to assist with the program, such as churches helping with clothing or transporting people to appointments.

Franklin Municipal Judge Ron Ruppert said he appreciated what Westendorf and the HOPE team are doing, adding that tracking is important.

“It’s quite moving to see this,” Ruppert said. “We need to address this as a community.”

While the HOPE team tries to reach people in the early stages of addiction, the court deals with people with addictions who commit crimes. Ruppert said as of December, the court’s intensive supervised probation program, commonly known as the drug court, has graduated nine people. He said of the program four most recent graduates, three of the graduates are gainfully employed.

Franklin City Council members recently expressed their appreciation and support for the HOPE team’s efforts.

“This is good stuff,” said Mayor Todd Hall. “We don’t run away from problems. We admit them and we address them.”

Copyright 2018  Journal-News 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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