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Ohio Town to Create Response Team for Drug Overdoses

May 04--MIDDLETOWN -- The city will use grant money to start a quick response team -- comprised of a Middletown paramedic, a police officer and a social worker -- to respond to drug overdoses in hopes of duplicating the positive results another community has seen with a similar program.

The Middletown Community Foundation recently announced $72,000 in competitive grants, and the city received $7,500 -- the third largest grant this quarter -- to help fund the first phase of its Heroin Summit Plan.

Council approved $86,000 toward the plan last month and the city has a few other grant requests still awaiting action, according to City Manager Doug Adkins, who formed a Heroin Summit early last year in response to what has been called "a heroin epidemic" in the region.

One piece of the plan is the creation by June 30 of the three-person quick response team. When an addict is identified, the three-way partnership of paramedic/police/social worker will follow up with the addict and offer them a path to sobriety and treatment.

"It's not about arrest, it's about ending the addiction," Adkins said.

Addicts who want assistance will be helped by the city to get into treatment, he said. But if the addicts continue to use and are not ready to get into rehab, the city will no longer "tolerate" them and they will be encouraged to move, he said.

This approach, he said, has seen positive results in Colerain Twp. and the city hopes to duplicate its successes.

Dan Meloy, public safety director for Colerain Twp., implemented the program last year, and so far, he said, nearly 80 percent of those who overdosed sought treatment within three to five days.

He said the intervention team goes to where an addict lives and provides an assessment of their needs. He said of the 106 overdoses in the township since July 2015, 84 people sought inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Meloy said he has been told that percentage means the program is successful, but he wants to reach all the addicts.

Right now, he said, the team goes out into the community every Wednesday, and he's hoping to expand that to two days a week because of the growing need.

"There is more to do than we thought," he said. "But we had to do something because people were dying."

While Middletown has been working on a "compassionate approach" to dealing with addicts, Adkins said the city also is changing how it approaches heroin from a public safety perspective.

The city recently obtained a fourth canine officer to be used in the fight against heroin.

Police will pinpoint "hot spots" for drug activity, and if the "hot spots" move, the city will attack again in the new location, Adkins said.

RELATED: Middletown may convert fire station into halfway house

The city also enacted a Chronic Nuisance Ordinance last fall.

If there are two drug related activities at a Middletown residence, the property is labeled a chronic nuisance property. If the city has to respond a third time for drug related activity, the owner of the property is invoiced for the entire cost of future responses by public safety.

Opiate abuse is a "massive problem" in the community that costs millions of dollars in city services and human life, said T. Duane Gordon, executive director of MCF.

"If we can save taxpayer dollars that are currently flowing down the hole as a result of this epidemic in our community, that's a great return, but if these dollars can save a life or two or three, then to those families that means the world," Gordon said.

The Heroin Summit group of public safety, health and community leaders have met numerous times during the past 16 months to plan ways to reduce the number of overdoses throughout Butler and Warren counties.

"We applaud the city for taking the past several months to look at the issue from all angles and identify several steps to take to reduce the harm that it is causing to our community. We are happy to help in a small way to deal with this huge problem," Gordon said.

Copyright 2016 - Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio

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