Wayne County's Quick Response Team Helps Rural Residents Struggling With Opioid Issues
A Quick Response Team program has been introduced to the rural county of Wayne to help combat the opioid crisis. The mission of the team is to lower drug overdoses by connecting people in the far-flung corners of Wayne to life-saving recovery services.
Dawn Streets, the EMS coordinator for the QRT, said the program is funded with grants through Marshall Health from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s State Opioid Response Project.
“Cabell County actually set up the first QRT program started in West Virginia. Cabell County had such great success that the governor now says he wants a QRT program in every county,” Streets said.
Along with the grants, the team is supported by a growing network of organizations in both Wayne and Cabell counties. Streets said EMS and other agencies direct the QRT to people most vulnerable of overdosing.
“Some local law enforcement agencies will say, ‘Hey, we might want to check out this spot. I know there's several people there.’ We take that information, I call my partners here and we go," Streets said.
Chris Clark is one of two recovery coaches on the team. He said the challenge in Wayne County is the time it takes to reach people. “It’s more rural. We can't touch as many people as like Cabell County does. But we are trying to touch anybody and everybody possible.”
“It can take an hour and 15 minutes, easy,” said Streets on their long travel time. “If we go see someone in East Lynn and then we have to go all the way back to Wayne and then go see someone in Dunlow. Then we may only get to see two or three people in one day, but we try.”
The team operates out of Streets’ car. Although they optimize their routes, no one can be everywhere at once. Streets, a paramedic of 32 years, provides Narcan whenever possible. She said instructing those in active addiction on how to use Narcan, which can reverse overdose symptoms, is essential when help can be far away. “If it takes me 20 or 30 minutes to get there, it's also going to take an ambulance 20 or 30 minutes to get there," Streets said. "They don't have that 20 to 30 minutes. So someone needs to be there with Narcan to give them to start reversing that overdose so that they’ll start breathing again.”
Kendrick Summers, another recovery coach, said that giving people access to these services is about pulling people out of isolation. "The whole idea of going into recovery is to merge back into society," Summers said. "Our goal is to get you somewhere that you can work on yourself and all at the same time, work on merging back into society.”
The team provides more than an immediate response. It works with them to obtain important documents and resources to lead a more stable life. “A lot of times you go and recover, you don't have a birth certificate or license, you don't have none of these things, all these things that create barriers from merging back into society,” Clarke said. If transportation is an issue, the Quick Response Team also connects those struggling to free transportation services provided by WVPTA.
According to Clark, both his and Summers’ own experience with recovery gives them insight into how access to services can positively impact those struggling. “We've come from there, and we've changed our life: done a 180-degree turn. Let them know that they can also do that through the right programs.”
Summers has an understanding on how addiction affects the lives of people. “I know what I put my family through — my mom, my dad, my wife, my daughters. And so with all this effort, if I can just prevent somebody, their family, from having to go through what I went through, from losing their father, from losing their child, or from losing their husband or their wife, from having to endure that pain that comes with the direct results of someone you care about suffering from this disease. That's what it's about.”
Summers is proud to have the opportunity to make a positive impact on people who’ve been in his position. “It's been super rewarding, because nine out of 10 people in the community are directly affected due to substance abuse disorder, and to come from it and be able to help people.”
The QRT is continuing to build its network and reach more people. For more information or to request a visit from the Wayne County Quick Response Team, call 304-908-9565, or email them at email@example.com. They can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wayneqrt.