MANSFIELD - Law enforcement and addiction service agencies will begin responding to drug users who overdose in Mansfield and Shelby to offer treatment services.

 

The Richland County Opiate Review Board will launch the Opiate Response Team Project on Wednesday, which will include law enforcement, mental health and addiction service agencies and addiction advocacy agencies, said Joe Trolian, executive director of the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

 

"One of the biggest problems has been engagement," he said. "It's not just having people come in (for treatment). It's getting people to engage in the treatment."

 

A team made up of a law enforcement officer, a treatment professional and an addiction advocate will respond to drug users who overdosed within 72 hours of the incident.

 

Mansfield Assistant police Chief Keith Porch said law enforcement or emergency medical personnel already provide drug users or their family members who overdose and are revived with naloxone with a resource packet — created with funding from the Ada Ford Foundation — immediately after the incident.

 

The Opiate Response Team is meant to follow up and encourage users to take the next step toward seeking treatment.

 

"The best results in reaching somebody (are) in that three- to five-day window (after an overdose)," Porch said.

 

The team will go to the houses of individuals who overdosed and talk with them and their family members for about half an hour, answering questions, explaining treatment services available and encouraging users to seek treatment.

 

Ideally, the team will also assess individuals at their homes to put them in contact with treatment programs best suited to their needs, Porch said.

 

The treatment agencies include Catalyst Life Services, Family Life Counseling, Mansfield UMADAOP, Healing Hearts Counseling Center and Three C Counseling.

 

In Mansfield, the addiction advocate will come from the Starfish Project of Richland County. In Shelby, the addiction advocate will come from Reformers Unanimous.

 

The Opiate Response Team is meant to eliminate any roadblocks to users seeking treatment. Depending on the circumstances, the team can arrange transportation to treatment services as well, Trolian said.

 

The team will respond to anyone who has overdosed two or more times in Mansfield and to all overdoses in Shelby. Its focus is on overdoses in which naloxone is used to revive the user.

 

In Mansfield, the team will not respond to users who overdose for the first time because of the high number of overdoses in the city.

 

In 2016, there were 430 overdoses in Mansfield, Porch said.

 

"If we did every overdose, we just don't have enough people," he said.

 

The program is voluntary, and Porch said the team cannot force anyone into treatment. But he hopes users will take advantage of the services the team offers and get help for their addiction.

 

"We anticipate the doors not being answered for us, but we want to be more proactive," he said. "The ultimate goal is to get somebody assessed while we're there to get the necessary treatment for them."

 

The project will run through June during a "pilot project" to work out any issues in the program. The project will be implemented throughout Richland County on July 1.

 

A Mansfield police officer or Shelby police officer will be on the team in their respective cities. Sgt. Jon Ahles with Mansfield's Community Policing Unit will lead the program in Mansfield.

 

Porch said the Richland County Sheriff's Office will assist on the Mansfield team to learn how to respond once the program is implemented county-wide in July.

 

The response team is modeled after a similar program in Colerain Township in Hamilton County, northwest of Cincinnati, which has a population of about 59,000. Porch said the program has been successful there in getting users into treatment, and he hopes Richland County experiences similar successes.

 

According to a press release, about 80 percent of users contacted after an overdose in Colerain Township followed through with treatment.

 

"It's very promising," Porch said. "I view it as definitely a proactive step. Hopefully, it all depends on the person, but you hope they take the advice while we're there, and we're able to help and get them into the proper treatment."

 

Community members with questions about the Opiate Response Team Project can contact the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board at 419-774-5811.

 

 

Emily Mills, Reporter

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