Program to curb overdoses, save lives gets a boost

Program to curb overdoses, save lives gets a boost
Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-20 05:40:42-04

CINCINNATI -- A program that has shown progress in reducing the number of opioid-related overdoses is expecting to expand across Hamilton County.

By April 3, local leaders expect to launch a county-wide Quick Response Team. The program is already underway in some local communities, including Colerain Township and Norwood.

The teams, which include local law enforcement and an addiction specialist, seek out residents who were recently revived from an overdose and work to connect them with treatment options.

In the first year that a team was launched in Colerain Township, overdoses dropped by more than 35 percent. More than half of the residents that the team contacted chose to enter an addiction treatment program.

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Local leaders hope to see similar results in the more than 45 jurisdictions in Hamilton County that a quick response team isn't currently serving.

“We need a response that is nimble enough to respond to different parts of the county in a moments time,” said Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus, who also leads the county’s Heroin Coalition. “Ultimately, we need to save lives and get more people into treatment.”

Denise Driehaus

The work, officials say, is critical as the county continues to face record levels of overdoses and deaths from opioid use. Unofficial results from Hamilton County Coroner’s office show that as many as 500 residents died from a drug overdose in 2017, up more than 30 percent from 2016.

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Under the county-wide program, a Hamilton County Sheriff deputy and a social service addiction counselor from the county’s Mental Health and Recovery Services Board will be part of the team that responding to recently overdosed residents at least two days a week.

The program is being paid for by a $400,000 federal grant, which covers the cost of training deputies in addiction science and treatment coordination.

The money also covers an added layer of data analysis from the University of Cincinnati’s Institute of Crime Science. The group will evaluate the county-wide team’s effectiveness and offer “predictive” analytics to help teams stop overdoses before they happen.

By mapping known drug routes and charting overdoses, data experts are able to predict when and where an overdose spike might occur.

"We're now able to notify some of the quick response teams and first responders in the area that there's an OD spike coming so that they can start doing outreach to their known addicted population and make sure they're prepared," said Daniel Gerard, director of the institute.

The voluminous amounts of data collected also helps officials draw links between those who've recently overdosed and their "first-degree-level friends," Gerrard said.

"We've been able to find that, much like crime, overdoses are clustered in time and space," said Gerrard, who has more than 30 years of investigative police work under his belt as a retired Cincinnati police captain. "Addicted populations are linked together. They often use together, and sometimes they commit opportunistic crimes together to get the money they need for their drug."

By analyzing those networks, Gerrard said the work of the quick response teams can be expanded.

"The teams can reach out to known friends of someone who just overdosed and tell them, 'Hey, you need to be aware that Terry just OD'd," Gerrard said. "'If you want help and treatment, we're here.'"