Project FORT battling addiction in Fairfield County


Maureen Kocot



The Fairfield County Overdose Response Team, or Project FORT, is launching its expansion on October 10. The focus is to help drug users get treatment.

“Brandon” is a former addict who is rebuilding his life at a transitional sober recovery house in Lancaster that’s joined forces with Project FORT.

The 26-year-old was born and raised in Columbus and graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in philosophy. He said what began as recreational drug use spiraled out of control until he was a full-blown drug addict using heroin and methamphetamine.

You wake up and you’re sick and you’re desperate and you have to do unethical and illegal things Just to get by the next hour or two,” said Brandon.

Brandon said in March, he was arrested in Hawaii and court ordered to return to his family in Ohio, and take part in drug treatment and counseling. He said at first, he resisted the idea, but now he’s FIVE months sober and grinning ear to ear.

“I feel great. I feel good. Too blessed to be stressed,” said Brandon.

Project FORT collaborators are hoping for more success stories like Brandon’s.

The collaboration is between first responders, the Fairfield Medical Center, social workers, recovery houses, churches, and community leaders.

Now, patients at FMC who are battling drug addiction will be given an opportunity to sign a waiver to begin receiving ongoing support and services to get clean.

FORT Director, Scott Duff, said those services could range from counseling to transitional housing to simply helping to put food on the table. Duff said Project FORT is for anyone coping with substance abuse.

“You don’t have to overdose to engage with Project Fort. We want to make sure people realize that,” said Duff.

Project FORT recently hoped to receive a $10,000 federal grant from the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA. Then, Congressman Steve Stivers got involved.

“I’ve met a lot of folks who are under the grip of addiction. They’ve lost their kids. They’ve lost their jobs. They’ve lost their hope,” said Stivers.

Duff said in the end, Project FORT didn’t receive the $10,000 it was initially seeking.

“I was shaken. I had to do a double take. I went into my commander’s office and said I’m not sure I’m reading this right,” said Duff.

“They ended up getting a half million dollar grant,” said Stivers. “This grant literally is going to save people’s lives.”

More than a half dozen paramedics with the Lancaster Division of Fire have volunteered to dedicate their talents to Project FORT.

So far in 2018, SIX people have died of a drug overdose in Fairfield County. In Lancaster, medics have responded to 67 drug overdoses and administered 64 doses of Narcan.

Paramedics said Project FORT is an opportunity to be proactive and make a difference in people’s lives.

Brandon said he has new hope for the future, and he’s eager to pay it forward.

“Right now I’d like to be a firefighter, EMT, paramedic…something along those lines,” said Brandon. “I can feel good about doing it.”

If you’d like to learn more about efforts to battle drug addiction in Fairfield County, attend ‘A Community Conversation For Families About Addiction’ on October 4 beginning at 7 p.m. at the ADAMH Building at 111 S. Broad Street in Lancaster.