The opioid epidemic is an ongoing issue in Montgomery County and all over the United States.
The problems that substance abuse brings to our community are not new, and we are very fortunate to have the dedicated team of the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD) taking leadership in educating and informing the public on the many resources available to combat the consequences of this problem. At the Monday meeting of the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County’s “Lunch With the League” program, MCHD’s Health Educator Samantha Cravens and Administrator Amber Reed explained how their department plays a crucial role in combating the disease.
In 2016 MCHD prepared, with community input, the Comprehensive Community Health Improvement Plan. One of the three top concerns was substance abuse. As a result of this, “Reduce substance abuse to improve health, safety, and quality of life for all” is a stated goal of the department. Then in October of 2016, the MCHD was informed by the Indiana State Department of Health that Montgomery County was classified as a “most at risk” community for opioid abuse.
This led to a state grant which was used to produce a somewhat controversial billboard. It read “Montgomery County—9 out of 92 (counties in Indiana) most at risk population for opioid abuse.” This opened up an important community discussion and awareness of the problem. One of the results was the formation of the Opioid Council which is a partnership made up of over 20 local agencies and organizations. The Council has opened up a lot of minds and allowed various groups to work together in not only understanding the complexities of the problem but also in coming up with ideas to combat it.
“Harm Reduction” has been an important step in combating the dangers of substance abuse. MCHD has been working since 2016 on a sharps (needle) disposal program. A program has also been set up for the safe disposal of prescription drugs. HIV/Hepatitis C screening and STI (sexually transmitted infection) screening are also available to the public. These are all free programs. MCHD is also offering free Naloxone kits and training for the public. Naloxone is a medication that quickly reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids such as heroin, methadone, fentanyl and morphine. Everyone is urged to take advantage of these services. Simply put, they save lives.
Data collection is also an integral part of the MCHD’s responsibilities. Information on such factors as whether or not an overdose was intentional is necessary to give a clear and accurate picture of precisely where more help education is needed. Needless to say, the financial resources necessary to cope with drug abuse are limited so it is important for the department to be able to track trends and particular needs in a given area to properly use the resources available to them.
Overdose response planning is yet another program coordinated by MCHD. In cooperation with local paramedics, law enforcement and hospitals, the goal is to meet with drug abusers in emergency room within 24-48 hours to get them proper treatment that sends them on the road to recovery.
Another grant from the Montgomery County Community Foundation will allow the MCHD to create a resource Website on behalf of Drug Free Montgomery County, their local coordinating council, to pull everything together in one place. Look for it to be up and running by the first of the year. It will be well publicized.
Remember that all the resources and information the department is offering is for YOU. Take advantage of it. So many people are affected one way or another. Don’t be shy. Nothing in what they offer is in any way judgmental. Until the Website is up, you can contact the department through the County Website: www.montgomerycounty.in.gov/health.
The League of Women Voters, open to men as well as women, is a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization which encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For information about the League, visit the website: www.lwvmontco.org or send a message to LWV, P.O. Box 101, Crawfordsville, IN 47933.