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Grant helps fight opioid crisis

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Nash County Health Department has been awarded a one-year $20,000 grant from the Injury and Violence Prevention Branch of  the state Division of Public Health to expand its efforts in dealing with the opioid crisis.

The Emergency Overdose: Local Mitigation to Opioid Crisis grant will benefit the Health Department in its efforts with Nash County Emergency Medical Services and the the Coalition of Addiction, Recovery and Education of Nash County.

“The purpose of the Emergency Overdose: Local Mitigation to Opioid Crisis grant is to recruit and fund local health departments/districts in North Carolina to implement strategies to prevent fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses, increase access and linkages to care services for the most vulnerable populations and build local capacity to respond to the opioid epidemic in the state,” Larissa R. Mills, the county’s coordinator of health services said in a press release.

In 2016, the rate of outpatient opioid pills dispensed per people in Nash County was 75.4 per 100,000 people, which is higher than the state rate of 66.5 per 100,000, the press release said. The rate of unintentional overdose deaths by Nash County residents was 14 per 100,000 people from 2012-16, according to the N.C. Injury Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit. This rate is slightly higher than the state rate of 12.2. per 100,000 people for the same period.

During the period from 2012-16, men had the highest percentage of unintentional overdose deaths in Nash County at 56 percent, and 86 percent of those deaths were among white men. Adults ages 25-44 had the highest overdose death rate at 41 percent

For the past three years, Nash County has been working to improve its public health efforts on the opioid epidemic, the release said. The recent grant will help expand some of these strategies.

One strategy of the grant is to expand the Nash County Syringe Exchange Program  through CARE of Nash County. The exchange program has been in existence since April 2017. It has mobile outreach sites throughout the county and is free to people 18 and older. Services include exchanging of needles, referral services as well as information about drug overdose, Hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases. Funding will be used to promote the program, travel cost, program materials and training for volunteers, the release said.

The second strategy of the grant is to expand the post-overdose response team through Nash County EMS, which has had an opioid response system since March 2018. Nash County EMS uses its community paramedics as part of the Opioid Reversal Response Team. The county’s Community Paramedic Program utilizes specially trained paramedics to provide home visits for patients at high risk for complications after a recent illness, injury or medical procedure. This team provides care and resources to county residents suffering from opioids, Mills said.

The community paramedics also respond along with the Nash County EMS units to suspected overdose calls. In addition, Nash County EMS works with Integrated Family Services mobile crisis team and the Nashville-based HOPE Initiative for treatment. Funding will be used to send the appropriate staff for training in post-overdose response as well as supplying educational materials and handouts to patients, according to the release.

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