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Kerry Strickland and son Jordan.

Kerry Strickland lost her son, Jordan (24), to a drug overdose in 2015. Since then she has been working tirelessly in the community to promote awareness and harm reduction with the charity named after her son, Jordan’s Hope. The charity’s goal is to connect people to the resources they need. Jordan’s Hope distributes clean syringes and naloxone to anyone who thinks they may need it and to date, the organization has prevented 78 overdose (OD) deaths.

Strickland has joined forces with Columbia Pacific CCO on a taskforce to understand more about ODs and improve coordination after an overdose, to ensure those affected get the most appropriate treatment and follow up.

“It’s so important that everyone, regardless of their point of view, know what everyone else is doing to reduce ODs,” said Strickland. “With our combined knowledge, skills and experience, we can work together to develop solutions that work more effectively.”

The taskforce includes representatives from Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties, emergency departments, emergency medical services, peer recovery support, mental health, opioid use disorder treatment, primary care, community organizations, harm reduction and public health. The new taskforce has met several times since March and has gathered in-depth information to analyze and share with the stakeholders and resources in the communities to coordinate this work.

“I lost a family member to the opioid epidemic,” said Melissa Brewster, pharmacy director for Columbia Pacific CCO, “so figuring out a solution to overdoses in our community is deeply important to me. We have gathered data on best practices from around the nation to understand what has worked in other areas. We also reviewed data from every OD event in our community (>100) in the last four years and examined follow-up responses by health care providers. We found that many are not receiving optimal follow-up care: not receiving naloxone after overdoses, many were still receiving prescription opioids, and most were not referred to treatment. This concern led us to creating this taskforce.

“We are now breaking up the task force to develop operational teams in each County,” Brewster continued. “The goals of the teams are to take the taskforce recommendations (below) and adapt them as needed based on their current needs and workforce and put them into practice.”

The Overdose Response Taskforce has made the following recommendations:

• Develop a peer-led OD response team (PORT) in each county to track and follow up on opioid ODs.

• Create a process for 911 dispatchers or emergency response services to notify PORT when naloxone is used in the field.

• Develop overdose protocols for hospital emergency departments that include SBIRT screenings as an evidence-based practice to identify, reduce and prevent problematic use, abuse and dependence on alcohol and illicit drugs, and prescribing naloxone.

• Develop processes to include referrals to medication-assisted treatment in emergency departments.

• Train and equip PORTs to be able to provide naloxone and train patients and family members on how to respond in an overdose.

“We need to keep talking about this topic,” said Strickland. “Keeping it top of mind is key. It’s staggering to think that people are still dying from ODs. We all like the idea of a quick fix for this problem, people with addictions have a disease and will probably relapse many times before they get well. We lack so many resources, and we need to understand how to taper addicts off drugs appropriately, provide detox and rehabilitation programs. And we need to learn to expect relapses to reduce the stigma associated with them. It’s all part of the healing process.”

Columbia Pacific CCO is hosting their fourth annual Opioid and Substance Use Disorder Summit, Oct. 14, 2019, in Seaside at the Convention Center. For more information, please visit: http://colpachealth.org/about-us/2019-opioid-substance-use-summit.

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