Roughly $700,000 in grants will allow Lorain County police departments to form “quick response teams” when helping people recover from drug addiction.
The initiative was announced by Wellington police chief Tim Barfield on Oct. 28 at village hall while his department took part in the Lorain County Drug Task Force’s latest prescription drug turn-in day.
By noon, the turn-in had resulted in eight full boxes of materials weighing about 300 pounds in total. Lt. Jeff Shelton said past turn-ins have filled up as many as 16 boxes.
Quick response teams will consist of police and medical professionals who will follow up with overdose victims or those who have asked for help treating their addiction.
Because of the intensity of the drug problem here, the county has qualified for a one-time federal grant of $200,000. It was secured by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to go toward the initiative.
For the next four years, an additional $500,000 in annual aid will come into Lorain County courtesy of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, passed by Congress in July 2016. It authorizes $181 million each year to fight the opioid epidemic nationwide.
Elaine Georgas, director of the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Lorain County, said the money could also help establish door-to-door education on opioids and neighborhood health clinics.
She said the concept of quick response teams comes from a similar project in Colerain Township, Ohio, which lies roughly 20 miles north of Cincinnati.
“People from Colerain came in to train our police and medical community in August,” Georgas said. “Within a week of a person overdosing, a team will go visit them at home. In Colerain, 80 percent of the people who’ve been engaged like this made the decision to enter treatment. The goal is always treatment but someones people just aren’t ready.”
“Officers who administered Narcan to the person will often be part of the team visiting them,” she said. “It’s a chance to reconnect with the person who saved their life and build a real relationship.”
Barfield, Georgas, and recovery advocates took part in a group discussion inside Wellington village hall where residents shared experiences of how the epidemic has touched their lives. Stories included a granddaughter hanging herself after falling into methamphetamine use and pornography and a brother’s Vicodin abuse turning into a $200-per-day heroin habit before he died.
“This is a segment of our society that’s completely misunderstood,” Barfield said. “I’m not excusing them for abusing drugs. But whether they chose to abuse them or not, no one chooses to be an addict. We know it’s a disease. That’s hard for people to understand, but it’s true.”
Last year, he helped spearhead the creation of LINC, or Local Initiative Networking Compassion. The program puts those struggling with addiction in contact with recovery advocates who can place them in drug treatment centers.
“There’s two purposes for LINC,” Barfield said. “One is to help these people who have a problem and their families. The other is to educate the public. It’s amazing when people get educated on this. They come to understand the psychology of addiction.”
Which police departments will participate has yet to be determined. Barfield said he is attempting to set up programs similar to LINC throughout Lorain County.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.