STOW -- With a program introduced last year to provide drug treatment help drawing little response, the city safety forces and drug counselors working with them are amping up their efforts.

Police Chief Jeff Film said Feb. 13 that the police and fire departments are working with the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Board and the Community Health Center in Akron to form a "quick response team" to actively try to get addicts who have survived an overdose into a treatment program. The program begins March 1.

"We're hoping to get to the addicts quicker," said Film.

Film said the idea of a QRT is that every two weeks, a Community Health Center counselor accompanied by a police officer and a firefighter will visit recent overdose survivors and talk to them about treatment options.

"We're going to take much more aggressive action on this," said Film, adding that police will be present "for the counselor's well being and to get the addict the help they need."

According to a Feb. 22 press release from the Stow police and fire departments, "The Quick Response Team will knock on doors and meet with individuals and family members to provide them with an Opiate Addiction Recovery Resource Guide that details crisis services, outpatient and inpatient resources, information regarding residential treatment facilities, and recovery support services that are available. Also included in the guide is support information for the family members and concerned friends of addicted persons. The resource guides are provided and funded by the ADM Board. Addiction Hotline and ADM Crisis Hotline contact information will also be provided for the individuals to voluntarily call to seek treatment. Local addiction providers will be linked into the Helpline so that the residents can be provided with the first available appointment for assessment. Beyond the home visit, a treatment counselor from Oriana House Inc. and or Summit County Health Center will follow up and stay engaged with the individuals until they are actively engaged in treatment."

Initial attempt

made last year

Last summer, Stow joined forces with the non-profit Community Health Center in Akron in Operation Second Chance, a new CHC program to bring those on the front lines, emergency first responders, into the fight against addiction.

The idea was that when police and EMS respond to an overdose emergency in which the victim survives, they would provide treatment information to them or family members.

Those interested can subsequently contact the police for a referral to a local program office on Wyoga Lake Road in Cuyahoga Falls that opened in September.

The program goes along with legislation, known as a "Good Samaritan law," approved by the Ohio Legislature that went into effect in September 2016. In part, it provides immunity from arrest, prosecution or conviction for a minor drug possession offense when a person "seeks or obtains medical assistance for self or another person who is experiencing a drug overdose."

Trouble is, said Film, very few of those who have overdosed have actually followed through to get a referral.

Stow Fire Chief Mark Stone said that in 2016, EMS responded to 59 overdose calls, 11 resulting in deaths. Narcan, a drug proven successful in countering the effects of overdose, was used 45 times, said Stone.

Of the calls overall, one victim was 53 and another was 47, while Stone said he believes the youngest was 19.

"The rest were all in their 20s, for the most part," said Stone.

Film said there is one positive note in these numbers.

"We've not had high school kids, knock on wood," he said. "We're very fortunate. I just hope I'm not jinxing us."

According to the Summit County Public Health Department, there were 2,431 overdoses in the county in 2016. As of Feb. 20, there were 275 overdoses so far this year county wide, including 151 in January and 124 in February.

In the 44224 ZIP code area, which is primarily Stow, but also includes Silver Lake and small portions of Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson, there were 93 overdoses in 2016.

Hudson resident given credit

According to a Feb. 17 Summit ADM news release, Colerain Township, a Hamilton County community with a population similar to Cuyahoga Falls in size, started a QRT in early 2015 "in response to the increase in opiate-related overdoses."

"The team provides outreach each week to individuals who overdose and are revived with Narcan," says the release. "Central to the QRT outreach is an offering of a resource packet and support to assist the overdose victim into treatment. This resource information is also provided to the family. The counselor acts to identify and facilitate a warm hand-off to treatment when an available slot opens. The Colerain QRT has experienced an 80 percent success rate in getting addicts into treatment."

Summit ADM credits Hudson resident Greg McNeil for introducing the QRT concept to Summit County. McNeil founded Cover2 Resource, an organization dedicated to educating families and communities about strategies for dealing with the opiate epidemic in October 2015, after his son died from an overdose.

"He learned about Colerain Township's QRT and approached the ADM Board about helping to disseminate this program," says the ADM news release.

It added that, "We are excited that many of our communities are embracing the Quick Response Team (QRT) program. The QRT team provides community outreach to those who have suffered an overdose. Teams consisting of a police officer, paramedic and a counselor offer resources for overdose victims and their families, with the goal to connect them to treatment. With teams now active in Cuyahoga Falls, Green, Barberton, Norton and Tallmadge, we now have 25 percent of our county covered. With the addition of Akron and Stow and several others, we will have over 75 percent coverage of Summit County by population, and will be reaching out to communities representing over 80 percent of overdoses in 2016."


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