WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - White, Jasper and Tippecanoe Counties will be able to either start, or continue, opioid Quick Response Team programs in their counties. As News 18 previously reported, Tippecanoe County's QRT started in December of 2018. The money will help this existing team keep doing its work, while helping White and Jasper Counties bring the resource to their citizens.
The QRT team is made of up a peer recovery coach, and EMT and other specialists who have resources to help those who have overdosed. The team goes to the home of someone who has recently been revived with Narcan, and if well received, the team does a wellness check and offers recovery resources.
Valley Oaks Health is the organization responsible for getting the grant, which is for $1,034,699. It comes from the Division of Mental Health and Addiction via the State Opioid Response Grant. The grant will last for 16 months total.
"We must meet people where they are," said Nicole Jenkinson, Executive Director of the White County United Way. "In our small community, we lack resources. And even though we don't have the resources, we still have the need."
And after seeing five months of success with Tippecanoe County's team, substance abuse fighters in White County want to bring that line of defense to their county. They call it a "warm hand off" when people who struggle with addiction are given the tools they need to overcome their struggles.
"When the person is willing and available that warm hand off is essential in order to make sure services are used," she said.
Lynn Saylor is an AmeriCorps member. She serves in the United Against Opioid Abuse Task Force through the White County United Way. While that hasn't always been her job title, she has seen the impacts of the opioid epidemic for years.
"About this time last year I was leaving my job as a teacher here at Twin Lake Schools," she said. "Being and educator for 30 years, I had seen how substance abuse effects children and families."
She said they have seen statistic numbers go up in a bad way. According to a study done by the state, the average rate of opioid death per 100,000 for the whole state of Indiana is about 17 people. That average rate in White County is about 24 people.
"In White County, we have had a five-fold increase in overdose deaths since 2015," said Saylor. 2015 saw only two opioid deaths in White County, whereas 2018 saw 11. "It may not sound like a big number but comparatively it’s a huge problem.”
“That’s 11 families in white county who are now suffering from the loss of a loved one, that is 11 groups of school-aged children, that is 11 mothers who are struggling with the loss," said Jenkinson. "That has reverberations throughout the entire community."
Saylor said she also has seen the impacts of the opioid epidemic in other places.
"I was involved in jail ministry for three years," she said. “I saw how the women who were incarcerated really struggled with overcoming all the struggles associated with addiction,"
This is an area that White County Superior Court Judge Robert Mrzlack also is familiar with.
“Our jails and prisons are filled with people who are unable to deal with their addictions themselves," he said. Judge Mrzlack was one of 11 stakeholders who wrote letters to the state in support of getting this QRT funding. He wants to stop seeing the same people walk through the courtroom doors for same offense.
"More recently in the last five years, it's just that the repeat offenders who continue to struggle," he said. He added that it's time for all the available resources in White County to come together and play of each other's strengths.
Because all three want to see those statistic numbers go down.
"The ultimate goal is always to eliminate substance use," said Jenkinson.
The first few months will be used to plan and organize how the team will be implemented in these counties. Saylor said White County's QRT team will start its work on September 1st.