By GRACE WARNER Logan Daily News Reporter
LOGAN — Hocking County’s Project HOPE (Hocking Overdose Partnership Endeavor) team traveled to Washington, D. C. to partake in an opiate conference. While there, they met with Congressman Steve Stivers to discuss what the team has been tackling on the local level.
Bill Dunlap, 317 Board Deputy Director, said they met with Stivers on March 11, and had a good conversation with the Congressman, who also asked a lot of questions.
“We talked about Judge Fred Moses’ drug court, we talked about the kinds of barriers we’re experiencing in trying to address this problem. He asked basically what he could do for us,” explained Dunlap.
One thing the group explained was the role Project HOPE plays in the drug epidemic within the county. They brought Stivers up-to-date on what they’ve accomplished and what their goals are for the future.
Dunlap said Stivers was familiar with a summer project that is similar to Project HOPE in Chillicothe; however, this was the first he had heard of Hocking County’s project.
Wes Gilkey, Project HOPE’s coordinator and data keeper, said Stivers was very receptive with the concerns they voiced.
“We updated him on some things we were seeing locally that he hadn’t yet heard about and he seemed really happy to hear about that. I’ve also been in contact with some people via email even afterwards,” remarked Gilkey.
The conference was titled, “America’s Changing Drug Epidemic: Opioids and the Rise (or Return) of Stimulants.
The conference addressed how the use of opioids is starting to slow down but there’s a big increase in cocaine, methamphetamine and other amphetamines being used more. Findings have shown that people are actually dying from the use of these drugs as well; however, NARCAN doesn’t impact the overdose of these drugs.
Dunlap noted that lacing drugs with fentanyl has increased, which has had an impact on the amount of overdoses seen not only throughout Hocking County but also the entire country.
“We do know NARCAN is impacting the opiate deaths. So this could be another challenge for our system,” shared Dunlap.
The team said they do have recovery housing in the region; however, they don’t have enough funds to continue its operation. Another area they’re lacking funding for is long-term recovery to support the people who are going through the process.
“It’s burning our staff out, it’s burning people out in our system, not only our treatment providers but children services, law enforcement. Everybody is being bombarded with this because people can constantly relapse if they don’t have support,” explained Dunlap.
Dunlap expressed how events like this can reenergize the team and people who have been working hard to make an impact on the area.
“I think people were inspired by it and I think it gave them a little bit of a boost that someone is aware and someone wants to help and they got to see where the action is to make these things happen,” expressed Dunlap.
Gretchen Gregory, grant coordinator and victim advocate with the Hocking County Prosecutor’s Office, said it was really interesting to see what other communities across the country are doing to tackle the opioid/drug issue.
“There were 100 different programs there, and there was actually someone there from Alaska, who was representing their tribal community. It was interesting to hear how different the programs were and how different agencies are tackling the problem,” remarked Gregory.
Dunlap told The Logan Daily News that Stivers was very impressed with the partnership throughout county agencies such as the Hocking County Prosecutor’s Office, Hocking County Health Department, Hocking County Sheriff’s Office and others for one common goal.
Moving forward, Dunlap said that some might believe distributing NARCAN is enabling addictions, however, the team has to start somewhere. The more people recognize the need for support of folks going through recovery, the more they could prevent overdoses from happening in the first place.
Project HOPE was implemented approximately a year ago by the 317 Board and Hocking County Sheriff’s Office along with area agencies to help those with opiate addiction get help for treatment sooner.
According to Dunlap, Project HOPE is funded through a $75,000 state grant that will be allotted for two years ($75,000 each year) to help address the opiate epidemic.
Project HOPE was setup to address the opiate epidemic and ensure that individuals who are suffering from opiate addiction have timely access to the necessary treatment and support services they need within the area.
To accomplish this, a team of law enforcement and behavioral health members visit homes of those who have possibly experienced drug overdoses, or who have been saved at one time or another by NARCAN to prevent further unintentional deaths and increase referrals to medication assisted treatment and recovery. So far, the team has had great response from those visited with several reaching out to the Hocking County Rapid Access Services.
The Rapid Access Services links individual with medication assisted treatment and opioid recovery support within 24 hours of the initial contact; and immediate intensive case management service as well as ongoing recovery support.
While it may take a while to build trust between the team and the individuals, the Project HOPE team is prepared to visit as many times as necessary. The end goal is to get help for the addicts. By getting addict treatment, it not only benefits the addict, but also their family, the community and gives relief to the jail system.
For those seeking help for treatment, contact the Hocking County Rapid Access Services at 740-385-6594.