The Multi-Front Fight Against Opioid Addiction

As the Foundation’s Needs Assessment notes, admissions for treatment of heroin addiction have soared in our region in recent years. Concerned community members have launched numerous programs to fight this epidemic, and their progress is encouraging.

The Community Foundation joined the battle from the start, participating on the Broome Opioid Abuse Council (BOAC) and funding several efforts to prevent and combat opioid abuse (see table below).

Addiction Center of Broome County 2015 $6,787 Support for a pilot Vivitrol program. Vivitrol is a medication-assisted treatment option for those with an opioid addiction.
Mothers and Babies Perinatal Network 2015 $6,000 For a program that supports parenting women with addiction to opiates.
Broome County Health Department 2016 $3,000 Support for a community forum on the treatment of opioid addiction featuring an addiction specialist.
Broome County Health Department 2016 $30,000 Support for the academic detailing program, which sends a consultant in to local medical and dental professionals to discuss changing their prescribing practices when it comes to opioids.
Truth Pharm 2016 $2,500 To help develop a community response to the opioid epidemic in Tioga County.

The largest of those grants, $30,000, went to the Broome County Health Department for an academic detailing program, aimed at doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. The program delivers brief educational messages, focused on guidelines to follow when prescribing opiate medications, and on effective alternatives to opioids.

“This is one of the most evidence-based methods for changing physician behavior,” says Sean Britton, who served as the county’s public health director through 2016.

Academic detailer Tom Morellino uses techniques he perfected as a pharmaceutical salesman. Medical professionals receive him well, he says. “They know there is a problem out there, and they know we’re trying to do something to address it, so the message is appreciated.”

In another major move, Broome County established a 24-hour help line for people with problems related to addiction. When the line is staffed, callers can discuss their needs and get referrals, says Carole Cassidy, who took those calls when she served as county attorney and coordinator of BOAC through the end of 2016. After hours, the line provides one-button forwarding to either the Sheriff’s Assisted Recovery Initiative for addicted individuals who want to enter treatment, or to the Addiction Crisis Center.

Cassidy also co-facilitated a support group for parents and grandparents of people who are struggling with addiction. “That has been very well received and has become a valuable resource,” she says.

BOAC is also making strides in community education. For example, it has offered presentations on heroin addiction in Broome, Chenango and Tioga Counties, says Jill Alford-Hammitt, manager of Lourdes Substance Abuse Prevention and chair of BOAC’s Community Education Committee. Speakers addressed topics such as prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery.

“The purpose of those panels was to raise awareness, to look at the scope of the problem and, probably most important, to try to reduce the stigma around addiction,” says Alford-Hammitt. Attendees heard that it’s all right to ask for help and that it is possible to recover from addiction.

BOAC has done wonderful work, says Susan Wheeler, a member of the council, who felt the pain of the epidemic when she lost a daughter to a heroin overdose.

One challenge that remains, Wheeler says, is to get broader distribution of naloxone, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. And BOAC should keep spreading information, she adds. “Continuing to educate parents, our school aged children, our addicts and our medical professionals is most important.”

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