Sarah Razner, Fond du Lac Reporter Published 6:21 a.m. CT Sept. 17, 2018 | Updated 6:21 a.m. CT Sept. 17, 2018
A study says the number of deadly heroin overdoses in the country more than quadrupled from 2010 to 2015. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were almost 13,000 overdose deaths involving heroin in 2015, compared to more than 3,000 deaths fatalities five years earlier. The center's research was based on death certificate data and did not examine whether overdoses were intentional suicides or accidental deaths. Heroin has been becoming more potent and cheaper to buy, which may be causing more people to use it, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Through a $666,000 grant provided by the state, Dodge and Fond du Lac counties are partnering to increase availability and immediacy of treatment for those suffering from opioid use disorder.
When the state opened the Wisconsin Opioid and Methamphetamine Treatment Centers Grant application process last year, it was restricted to counties considered high need, including Dodge County.
In 2016, 26 people died from drug overdose deaths in Dodge County, up from 22 the year before, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ WISH Query. However, with a focus to help regionally, Dodge County needed to partner with another county, doing so with Fond du Lac County, said Dodge County Director of Human Services and Health Becky Bell.
While Fond du Lac County is not considered high need, like Dodge County, the opioid problem is considered “significant,” said Fond du Lac County Department of Community Programs AODA Coordinator Lynn Klapperich.
In 2016, Fond du Lac County had 14 drug overdose deaths.
A person-focused program
Working together, Bell and Klapperich applied for the grant, learning months later that the counties received over $600,000 to fund treatment. Based “upon outcomes and success of the program,” it is possible the counties will receive additional funding for four more years, said Bell.
In April, the counties contracted with Justice Point, an organization out of Milwaukee, which works with multiple counties in the state, as well as in Minnesota to assist in pretrial diversion, impaired driving court and adult drug court said Adayta Axelson, program director of Opioid Treatment Center of Dodge and Fond du Lac County
In Dodge and Fond du Lac counties, Axelson reached out to community support services, such as law enforcement, hospitals, EMS services and social services to spread the word about the treatment center.
“We had a great response, from law enforcement especially,” she said. “They’re really on the front lines and see it a lot.”
Individuals, family members and these community support services can refer someone to the program through filling out brief online referral forms on the Dodge and Fond du Lac county websites, as well as on the Opioid Treatment Center’s website. Those interested can also call 920-386-4851.
Of particular focus are pregnant women suffering from opioid use disorder and helping them reach services and prevent “any further damage to the child,” said Klapperich. Those outside of the counties are also able to take part in the program.
Once referred, the center will respond within 48 hours.
Through Justice Point, cases are managed and an intake specialist conducts assessments to determine the level of care needed, and have the person placed correctly, be it in residential treatment, detox, an intensive outpatient program, group therapy, family treatment program and more.
With the assessment is completed, treatment begins. The immediacy is important, as it lessens time for people to relapse, overdose or change their mind.
“People don’t have to wait for treatment. They don’t have to make an appointment and wait several weeks to see someone,” said Klapperich.
Axelson added, “We don’t want to create a barrier for them to get into the program or get help.”
The grant allowed for another gap to be filled in the process: that of a recovery support specialist. Through this, those in the program can receive assistance in finding housing, employment, transportation and behavioral health services, said Bell, addressing other areas of life affected by opioids. If without transport, staff will drive the participants to treatment, or go to their homes.
“It’s a very person-centered approach,” said Axelson. “We’re not saying we have all the answers, but we’re really looking for the solution for the person individually.”
Treatment is provided at the Dodge County Human and Health Services, and Fond du Lac County Department of Community programs. In addition, the grant allowed for increased availability in detox services and money for residential treatment, said Klapperich.
Through the grant, typically expensive residential treatment is paid for, and allows the counties to send those in need to treatment centers which they have contracts with, including — but not limited to — Blandine House, Beacon House and Mahala’s Hope, as well as Nova in Oshkosh and Genesis in Milwaukee.
Launching in August, the program currently has 20 clients, but has had 46 referrals. There are nine pending referrals, according to Axelson.
Invite to resources
With a wide variety of resources now available at the community’s finger tips, those involved urge people to reach out.
“I would encourage anybody who is a family member, or if they are struggling with an opioid disorder to reach out and access our services,” Bell said.
Do you or someone you know need assistance for opioid use disorder?
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