The St. Francois County Health Center has made advancements in their opioid consortium and are beginning to work toward strategies in order to better address the opioid issue that faces the area.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, St. Francois County has the fourth highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the state. St. Francois County also has the 65th highest opioid prescribing rate in the nation.
The overall goal of the SFCHC consortium is to prevent opioid overdoses in the county.
The consortium was initially formed in July of last year and consists of a wide range of community agencies and partners. In the initial conception phase, the group began exploring what resources they had available and how to best put those resources to use in improving their system for prevention, treatment, and recovery as it relates to the Opioid Use Disorder (OUD).
The group began meeting consistently at the beginning of this year after the health center learned that they would be receiving up to $100,000 from National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the CDC to increase its capacity to respond effectively to the opioid epidemic at the local level.
Since then, they have finalized a community action plan and are now moving into the implementation phase of this plan.
They had previously been meeting monthly as a large group but are now looking at forming subcommittees to dissect and delegate the strategies of the action plan to smaller groups that can focus on specific issues that require attention.
“We’ve devised some focus areas in order to divide and conquer the problem that is affecting a significant portion of people within our community,” said SFCHC Assistant Director Amber Elliott.
These areas are split up into four different strategies in an attempt to attack the problem from all angles.
The first strategy is to promote harm reduction and prevention measures. One objective of this strategy is to increase access to Narcan in populations at risk for overdose by the end of this year.
This will include partnering with at least one other agency or group that has access to individuals in long-term recovery to convene a focus group of peers to provide input that will drive program activities to give access to information on the signs and symptoms of overdose, Narcan distribution, and other treatment resources to those at risk for overdose.
This first strategy also includes focusing on reducing the transmission of hepatitis C and HIV by increasing access to proper testing and treatment.
The second strategy is to implement a peer-to-peer learning system.
This includes working with doctors and other healthcare providers to support and educate them on the best practices. The consortium has already held in-depth training provided by healthcare professionals at the St. Francois County Ambulance District and facilitated by the National Resource Center for Academic Detailing (NaRCAD).
Strategy three focuses on linkage to care. The consortium intends to form a focus group of participants to complete a gap analysis and identify strategies to reach pregnant women with opioid dependency and refer them to prenatal care and treatment.
This strategy also includes reaching out to the Children’s Division Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline to improve the referral process for pregnant women with opioid dependency.
Another facet of this strategy is to work with website developers to create an online resource guide or landing page with resources for substance use and overdose prevention.
The final strategy is to increase community awareness and education on the issue.
The plan is also to organize a community event such as a town hall meeting or community resource day in hopes of educating the public, not only on the dangers of opioid use, but the treatment resources available within the community.
They’ll also be working with law enforcement and public safety officials to identify ways that will increase public awareness of the Good Samaritan law. This law gives immunity from prosecution to individuals who call for emergency help pertaining to opioid overdose.
The group also aims to identify evidence-based curriculum or measures to implement in local schools and hopefully prevent young people from ever falling into the grips of this addiction.
Elliott said the consortium’s primary goals are to reduce the use of opioids in the community by increasing public knowledge, prevent deaths from opioid overdoses, reduce the spread of disease, and get those who need help into treatment.
“We want to really focus on the use of evidence-based measures in order to implement the best possible plan we can to help the community with this opioid crisis,” she said.
The consortium is open to all community members. Anyone interested in learning more can contact Elliott at 573-431-1947 ext. 113.
Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.