The Montgomery County Opiate Task Force has started several initiatives to help curb illegal drug abuse and hopes for more resources to expand its programs.
Task force members say that among urban counties, Montgomery County has the highest opiate death rate in Ohio. In 2012, the county saw 162 unintentional drug overdose deaths.
“The reality is that we’re in a crisis in this community because of the easy access to opiates,” said Helen Jones-Kelley, the executive director of the county’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health ServicesBoard. “We have more people dying of opiate overdose than we do of car crashes in the community.”
Dr. Brien Dyer, who runs the Samaritan Crisis Care program at Good Samaritan Hospital, said four initiatives grew out of the task force’s work.
In brief, the programs are:
- A Suboxone effort, which began in early October, allows 100 people to taper down their use of drugs and still be able to work and attend school.
- The DAWN — Death Avoidance With Nalaxone — program is targeted for Nov. 1. Addicts and possibly family members can get kits with instructions on using a nasal spray than can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
- A “sobering” center is aimed for Jan. 1. The center would be a place in which non-violent addicts can take between four to eight hours to “sleep off” the effects of narcotics.
- A sub-acute detox center is tentatively planned for May 2014. One step below hospital care, the sub-acute center would have 24/7 care and could act as an entry point for longer-term detoxification.
All programs are or will be operated from grants by the ADAMHS Board and may all be available at Good Samaritan Hospital, 601 Edwin C. Moses. For more information about these Montgomery County programs, call (937) 224-4646.
Formed in 2010 as the Preventing Unintentional Prescription Drug Poisoning Project, the task forced morphed into its current form in 2012 with assistance from a $60,000 annual, four-year pilot project grant through the Ohio Department of Health via the Centers for Disease Control.
The task force consists of representatives from drug abuse treatment programs, hospitals, pharmacies, law enforcement, fire department/emergency services, a pain clinic, the community at large, the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, Public Health — Dayton& Montgomery County and the Montgomery County ADAMHS Board.
Early goals of the task force included compiling statistics to measure the opiate problem in the county, training and public awareness efforts and making recommendations for programs to prevent overdose deaths.
The “toe tag” poster which depicts an overdosed sign on a foot in the morgue can be seen on Greater Dayton RTA buses, in businesses around the county and on door-hanging signs.
Task force member D. Timothy Lane of Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine said it’s hard to evaluate the effectiveness of the sign, but every set of eyes help: “The ultimate evaluation is decreasing overdoses.”
Robert Carlson, CITAR’s director, said his department in 2002 was the first in Ohio to document the trend of opioid-to-heroin transition many users go through. Carlson said he hopes the recently submitted application for a five-year extension of the CDC/Ohio Dept. of Health grant is critical.
“It remains vital issue for the county and, really, for Ohio,” Carlson said. “As much as could be done would be very helpful.”
New coalition town hall meeting today
Led by an effort from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, a new coalition of community leaders seeks to mobilize diverse partnerships to fight the harmful effects of illegal prescription drugs, opiates and heroin.
A town hall meeting is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Mandalay Banquet Center which will include leaders from law enforcement, health care, businesses, drug treatment providers, faith-based organizations and others who will describe the coalition’s vision of attacking the problem.
“Trying to do this from one angle is almost impossible,” Sheriff’s Depputy Mike Brem said. “You have to bring in other people and we don’t want to fight this battle by ourselves. Right now we’re losing the battle. We’ve got to figure out ways to collaborate together in order to make this work.”