(Cleveland) - MetroHealth, working in partnership with the Cuyahoga County, next month will dramatically expand an innovative program to get people who have recently overdosed into treatment.
A Quick Response Team – which will pair a social worker from MetroHealth’s Office of Opioid Safety with a Cuyahoga County Deputy Sheriff – will begin making home visits in the city of Cleveland on Oct. 5.
“This program will save lives by going into Cleveland’s neighborhoods to bring hope and help to people who desperately need it,” said MetroHealth President and CEO Akram Boutros, MD “We know the past six months have exacerbated an unprecedented substance abuse crisis, and we continue to work with partners to advance solutions.”
County Executive Armond Budish added, “MetroHealth once again proves to be an outstanding partner to our county-wide human service efforts to treat addiction. We know from decades of experience fighting drug abuse that an immediate response helps not only the user, but the children, families, and neighborhoods, too. We are committed to this collaboration.”
“The law enforcement response to overdose and addiction has to go beyond traditional arrests and incarceration,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “Our neighbors, friends and family are often victimized by drug traffickers and the illegal substances they sell. This program will give those who are suffering from addiction and have recently overdosed an opportunity to seek treatment. Our collective goal is to help reduce repeat overdose incidents and get people the help they need.”
“Our officers on the street and those working within the Cleveland Division of Police Heroin Involved Death Investigation Team see first-hand every day the devastation caused by opioid overdoses,” said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin D. Williams. “We whole-heartedly support all efforts to assist those affected by addiction to move along the road to recovery.”
MetroHealth already has similar programs in place with the Parma Police Department and the Westshore Enforcement Bureau, made up of police departments in Lakewood, Rocky River, Westlake, Bay Village, Fairview and North Olmsted.
The seeds of expanding this program into Cleveland date back to 2019, when analysts working for the DEA was trying to find links among overdose data. He found scores of people who had overdosed multiple times.
These were drug users, not dealers. Representatives from the Justice Department, Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland Division of Police and MetroHealth agreed the best course of action was to target these people with intervention from a Quick Response Team, or QRT.
QRTs were first developed in Colerain Township near Cincinnati. Experts say people who experience an overdose refuse typically have a window in the following days in which they might be open to going into treatment.
QRTs involve a team of social workers or addiction counselors paired with a first responder visiting the home of the person who overdosed and offering to take them to treatment on the spot. If they decline rehabilitation, the QRT leaves behind information is available treatment and other resources.
Colerain reported a significant decrease in overdoses after implementing the QRT program, and it was replicated across Ohio.
MetroHealth QRTs have met with more than 250 individuals since 2018. This year alone, teams have been able to place 10 people into treatment.
The program is funded through a federal grant to MetroHealth’s Office of Opioid Safety earmarked for Naloxone distribution and QRTs.
The existing partnerships cover a significant part of the county, including areas particularly hit hard by the opioid epidemic. Still, the city with the largest number of drug overdoses has been Cleveland. The Cleveland Division of Police will share law enforcement data with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department and Fusion Center to generate the list of locations the QRTs will visit.
(Photo by Christopher Furlong, Getty Images)
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