“We have a problem that’s bringing us to our knees,” said West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch at a press event in Charleston. A representative from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration visited West Virginia Monday to announce an additional $330,000 of funding for opioid abuse prevention and treatment.
“The opioid problem and substance abuse problem affects virtually every family in West Virginia,” he continued.
Late last year the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded West Virginia $5.8 million to combat the opioid epidemic. This week, they announced that West Virginia is one of three states, along with New Hampshire and Massachusetts, that will be awarded an additional third of a million in an “Opioid State Targeted Response” grant.
“As part of this funding opportunity… we invited the ten states with the highest overdose death rates in the country – West Virginia, of course, being one of them,” said Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Specifically, what West Virginia will do with these funds is that they will establish an innovative and evidence-based approach to identify people with opioid use disorders who are seen in emergency rooms so that those people can immediately get evidence-based treatments, including lifesaving medication-assisted treatment, right from the time they show up and are seeking that help.”
The grant will pay for ER-based peer recovery coaches and support personnel to counsel overdose patients and offer immediate treatment if wanted.
But first responders and emergency room personnel often report that people who show up in the emergency room overdosing or who have recently been brought back with the overdose-reversal medication naloxone aren’t always ready to immediately get treatment – or to enter treatment at all.
“One of the efforts we are going to be moving forward with very quickly, and probably in the Charleston area next, are the quick response teams,” said secretary Crouch.
“The way that works is you have a team of folks who are responsible for identifying that overdose and going out within 24 hours and finding that individual and trying to convince that individual to go into treatment, to show the benefits of treatment and to provide information to that individual,” he said. “Sometimes that obviously works and sometimes it doesn’t. There’s no one time that works. It’s an individual decision that has to be made. But we believe if we can get out to those folks within 24 hours, we’ll have some success.”
Huntington launched a quick response team in the beginning of December 2017. In the first two weeks, the quick response team was able to persuade 19 people to enter treatment. Crouch says he hopes to replicate Huntington’s model in 5 or 6 West Virginia counties. The effort, spearheaded by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, would accompany the ER work allowed by the new federal grant and, hopefully, be one more step toward turning the tide of addiction in West Virginia.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.