Opioid Task Force receives $600K more for new program


Staff Writer
Published: 11/10/2020 4:15:31 PM
Modified: 11/10/2020 4:15:29 PM

The Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin region has received an additional three-year federal grant for $600,000 to support its new 24/7 opioid rapid overdose response team that is expected to launch by early 2021.

According to Task Force Coordinator Debra McLaughlin, the grant, which comes from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant and Substance Abuse Program, will support CONNECT (or Community Opportunity, Network, Navigation, Exploration and Connection Team) over the next three years. The program also received a two-year $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Treatment in September.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, administrative home for the Opioid Task Force that was formed in 2013, is the lead applicant for the grant. CONNECT will use the grant to provide opioid overdose rapid response services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The team plans to use an evidence-based regional model to respond to fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the 30-town region.

“The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is happy to administer these federal grant funds for CONNECT, which will save lives, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies,” said Sheriff Christopher Donelan, one of three task force co-chairs.

“These additional federal funds will make CONNECT’s post-overdose follow-up services even more robust,” added Register of Probate and fellow Opioid Task Force Co-Chair John Merrigan.

McLaughlin said CONNECT has been in a planning phase and will initially be piloted in Greenfield.

“We hope to launch in early 2021,” she said. “The grant will allow us to expand the post-overdose follow-up services to also serve children and youth who have been impacted when a parent or caregiver experiences an overdose.”

McLaughlin said the Opioid Task Force anticipates using existing staff to oversee the project while working with various community partners to implement the effort, but that could change as planning continues.

“The CONNECT team will be trained in Dr. Ruth Potee’s, ‘The Physiology of Addiction,’ how to safely administer Naloxone and the impact of adverse childhood experiences, or ACES, upon someone who is misusing opioids or other substances,” McLaughlin said. “It’s possible that once post-overdose follow-up services occur trainings could be a part of the service plan, but that will be customized based on individual needs using a patient-centered, holistic approach.”

Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, who is the third task force co-chair, said unfortunately, all signs point to increased fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the rural region.

“CONNECT will offer hope and help to those impacted by opioid misuse,” he said.

The program has seven goals, including providing 24/7 assistance to individuals who survive or witness an opioid overdose, McLaughlin said. Team members will make in-person follow-up visits to those individuals within 72 hours of an overdose to assess health and social needs of those involved and will deliver comprehensive evidence-based care like case management, peer support and trauma-informed practices to connect individuals to pharmacotherapy — including methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.

McLaughlin said “warm handoffs” will be used to ensure opioid overdose survivors and witnesses navigate care across systems. She described a warm handoff as a “transfer of care between two members of the health care team where the handoff occurs in front of the patient and family. The transparent handoff of care allows patients and families to hear what is said and engages them in communication, giving them the opportunity to clarify or correct information or ask questions about their care.”

The team will also expand naloxone availability and appropriate use by first responders and community bystanders, and will establish a database to track CONNECT participants for care coordination and continuous quality improvement. McLaughlin said the team will conduct trainings on protections for “Good Samaritans” who assist during an opioid overdose and will establish safety protocols on fentanyl and other licit/illicit opioid exposure.

The Opioid Task Force has more than 400 members who work together to help reduce opioid and heroin addiction, prevent overdose deaths and improve quality of life through prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery initiatives and committees.

For more information, visit opioidtaskforce.org. The task force can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

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