Mayor Steve Williams announced Tuesday, Jan. 21, that Huntington’s Quick Response Team (QRT) has been selected as a mentor site as part of a national initiative to spread law enforcement and first responder diversion programs across the country in their efforts to respond to the opioid crisis.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance, a component of the Office of Justice Programs within the U.S. Department of Justice, selected eight mentor sites through a competitive process to participate in the Law Enforcement/First Responder Diversion and Referral Program Mentoring Initiative, which will fund peer-to-peer site visit opportunities for law enforcement and first responder agencies across the country.
The eight sites represent a diverse cross-section of successful diversion programs and collaborations between law enforcement and first responders, behavioral health providers, and other community partners to connect individuals with opioid use disorder to treatment instead of entering the criminal justice system.
The Quick Response Team was established in December 2017 in response to an unprecedented number of overdoses in Cabell County. Cabell County EMS, the City of Huntington, Huntington Police Department, Marshall University and behavioral health agencies partnered to develop the program. Faith leaders have since been added as a component of the QRT.
Members of the QRT provide outreach to individuals within 48 hours of an overdose event. While the QRT initially targeted individuals who received an EMS response for their overdose, it has expanded the program to include community referrals.
Marshall University collects data and provides analysis of the QRT’s work.
Since the QRT was launched in December 2017, it has come into contact with 720 individuals, of which 216, or approximately 30 percent, have sought treatment. Cabell County’s fatal overdose rate fell 24 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the most recent CDC data, and nonfatal overdose calls fell 52 percent, from 1,831 in 2017 to 878 in 2019.
“The Quick Response Team’s inclusion in this mentoring initiative is another example of how collaboration in Huntington is leading to innovation, and that innovation is providing solutions to the opioid epidemic that other communities across the country are seeking to replicate,” Williams said.
“The QRT members’ compassion and dedication is what has made this program so successful, and it is vital to have the support and leadership from Mayor Williams and Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry,” said Connie Priddy, a Cabell County EMS employee and the QRT coordinator. “This recognition proves what can be done when a community comes together.”
Other communities included in the mentor initiative are Colerain Township (Ohio) Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services; Lucas County (Ohio) Sheriff’s Office; Mundelein (Illinois) Police Department; City of Philadelphia; East Bridgewater (Massachusetts) Police Department; Seattle-King County Public Defender Association; and the Tucson (Arizona) Police Department.
For more information about the Law Enforcement/First Responder Diversion and Referral Mentoring Initiative, visit www.coapresources.org/learning/peertopeer/diversion.
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