10 to Watch: Post Overdose Response Team
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — In August 2019, the Rowan Public Health Department unveiled its Post Overdose Response Team created as a way to combat the increasing number of opioid overdoses in the county in the previous two years.
The team’s role is to make contact with a person following an overdose and connect them with resources including treatment facilities, support meetings or counseling all in an effort to help them fight their addictions.
The team is made up Ashley Creek, a peer support specialist; Jeff Brown, a community paramedic with Rowan County EMS; and newly added is harm reduction advocate Natalie Arrington, who is with the Center for Prevention Services.
The public health department received a nearly $300,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield to form the team and implement the program. In the same year, the health insurance company gave five state organizations $2 million to address the opioid epidemic. The agencies were chosen for their work to help prevent addiction, treat opioid dependency and transform communities at the local level.
In 2017, Rowan County was among five other counties along Interstate 85 with the worst problems for opioid and heroin overdoses. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the county has averaged 57.8 overdoses per month. Prior to COVID-19, the average was 25.3 overdoses per month.
“Within 24 to 72 hours, we try to be in contact with those individuals to try to get face-to-face and link them with care and life-saving medication like Narcan,” Creek said.
The team also links participants to programs and resources like counseling, mental health care programs, rehabilitation or a detox program.
It’s important for people to know, “I’m never going to give up on you or turn them away,” she said.
The services that PORT provides are at no cost to the participants.
The team follows up with participants after the first month, third and six months.
Arrington plans community outreach events and stays in connection with community partners. If there is a program out there that can benefit the participants then Arrington will find it, Creek said.
Brown establishes referrals for the participants.
“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without him,” Creek said.
Creek said substance use disorder affects people from all walks of life and is an everybody problem.
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