Report coming on local opioid problem

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Journal Review on 7/25/2018 by Nick Hedrick

Stakeholders discuss ways to curb addiction

Police, health care providers and others at the center of the local opioid problem will soon receive a map for helping tackle drug abuse.

After months of gathering input, Montgomery United Fund For You’s United Against Opioid Abuse Project is completing a report that seeks to gauge the extent of the issue in Montgomery County and coordinate a response from local agencies.

Since the process began in January, coordinator Tami Foster said the focus has shifted from the impact of drugs to finding ways to address trauma and other factors that can play in to drug use.

“When we’re people focused, we tend to remove the shame, the guilt and the stigma — or at least it helps us to remove that — so we can focus on healing the person, which can then heal the community,” Foster said.

About 20 people including social workers, pastors, probation officers, health care professionals, recovering addicts and family members of those who’ve died from addiction gathered at the Crawfordsville District Public Library for the last in a series of community forums as part of the projects.

Rev. Brian Campbell, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church, said his congregation has joined other local clergy to discuss funding transitional housing for recovering addicts.

“The need is great for sure, and we all see it. It’s something we’ll all dealt with a lot,” Campbell said.

The county is taking the first steps to provide housing for some in the court system, including those who qualify for drug court but don’t have a place to live substance-free. Chief probation officer Andria Geigle said the county has to rely on churches to find hotel rooms for clients or house them in the jail.

Cracking down on opioid prescriptions is another key to fighting the problem, the group said. Doctors use a national database to track the amount of opioids given to each patient. Emergency rooms can also cross-check a system to prevent addicts from going to multiple hospitals for more pills.

Opioid prescription rates have declined statewide since 2011, according to the Montgomery County Health Department, one of six counties participating in the state’s Overdose Response Pilot Project.

The project allows the counties to access data on drug overdose patients from emergency rooms across Indiana.

Raising awareness of alternative pain management methods and encouraging patients to properly dispose old opioid prescriptions would prevent more people from becoming addicted, the stakeholders said.

Foster’s report is due in the next month. Copies will be provided to law enforcement agencies, courts, schools, social service agencies and health care professionals.

“I think it’s important that everybody has a chance to [review it] that… it doesn’t sit on the shelf and there will be next steps that come after that,” she said.