MADISON — A Quick Response Team has been established in Boone County to serve as a “first responder unit” in narcotic-related medical emergencies.
A quick response team is trained to serve as a first-responder unit made up of law enforcement, rescue personnel, ministers, health care professionals and/or substance abuse counselors.
Under the umbrella of Boone Memorial Hospital, Executive Director Brent Tomblin of Brighter Futures of Madison leads a partnership effort in the creation of the Boone County Quick Response Team.
Brighter Futures promotes and implements medication-assisted treatment, which includes individual and group therapy with medicine provided weekly.
“The community kind of wraps around the hospital,” Tomblin said. “The hospital is one of the biggest employers and obviously is responsible for the well-being of the community.”
Tomblin said that as the drug epidemic continued to grow, the economic health of Boone County has declined and BMH wanted to be proactive and do something to help change the narrative.
“The hospital said that, as a leader in the community, we have to step up and address this problem,” he said. “The hospital is stepping up to do something.”
Tomblin described the initiative as a “hub-and-spoke” model.
“The hospital will serve as the centerpiece and QRT will be one of those spokes along with other related spokes like clothing, hygiene, workforce monitoring, resume building — and as we continue to grow, if you are good at something, we want to partner with you and take advantage of what we already have established in our communities. We feel like if there is a need in the community that we don’t have, it is the hospital’s responsibility to step up and provide that need.”
Approximately three years ago, Huntington established a Quick Response Team.
“Since that inception, they’ve seen about a 40% reduction in overdoses,” he said. “Logan County has seen (over) a 10% reduction and they are just over a year old in their service.”
Through the West Virginia DHHR’s Office for Drug Control Policy, approximately $225,000 in grant funding was secured to facilitate the new QRT.
During the past month, new QRT Program Coordinator Kelley Massey has been making connections with various agencies and groups to form a cohesive team.
According to Massey, once a call is processed through a countywide system regarding an overdose and NARCAN is provided to a patient, a report is generated via the Boone County Ambulance Authority within 24-72 hours that will alert the QRT to visit that individual.
“What happens on a visit is, our team will consist of a law enforcement officer, an EMS representative, a peer recovery coach and sometimes myself,” Massey said. “That team will travel to that person’s residence and we are there to let them know that we are there to offer help to them. It is non-judgmental in nature.”
Massey said law enforcement is only there for security purposes and not there to investigate or arrest anyone.
“We are not there to force ourselves on them but only to inform them of the services we can connect them with if they would like help,” she said. “Our goal is to reduce the amount of overdoses in Boone County.”
A 2018 study found the opioid crisis was costing Boone County’s economy an estimated $206.5 million per year — the highest per-capita burden of any county in the U.S.
Tomblin said he anticipates a positive trickle-down effect through the outreach in the community.
“If we go to a home and we are there to help someone and her husband sees that we’ve helped his wife and he has the same types of problems and looks for us to help him too,” he said. “He may be in the same boat with an overdose and we’ll provide that same avenue to them, which can help drive them into recovery.”
Program requirements state that a client’s history must include some type of opioid abuse disorder.
Through case management, the program can offer job-placement assistance, resume building and even provide assistance with acquiring documents like a birth certificate, Social Security card and provide guidance and assistance in reacquiring a valid West Virginia Driver’s License.
“We can help with that, but our primary goal is recovery,” Massey said. “There are so many paths to recovery. The help we provide is a collaborative effort with multiple agencies.”
Tomblin added, “When it comes to recovery, you can compete on primary care, you can compete on specialty care, but addiction isn’t something to compete on. Let’s all partner together and fix the problem together.”
According to organizers, the QRT should be fully operational on Oct. 26, but if help is needed prior to that date, they are accepting referrals and calls for assistance. Any local agency or organization that is willing to form a partnership is encouraged to inquire with Kelley Massey.
For more information, find and like the Boone County Quick Response Team on Facebook or call them at 304-369-1239, ext. 4610. The QRT referral line is 1-866-800-0778. Brighter Futures can be reached at 304-369-7876.