Sandhills-area residents with substance use disorders, their caregivers and the community at large now have a one-stop resource for finding help. A new website at www.firsthealth.org/recoveryresources provides an extensive breadth and depth of resources for opioid outreach and response.
“With more than two dozen agencies collaborating on this resource, we feel it offers comprehensive information for those seeking to prevent, recover from or gain greater awareness of substance use/opioid use disorder,” said Roxanne Elliott, M.S., policy director of FirstHealth Community Health Services.
The website is a collaborative effort of the Sandhills Opioid Response Consortium (SORC), a group of agencies in Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore and Richmond counties representing health care, non-profit organizations, law enforcement, behavioral health, public health, county government, harm reduction, and treatment and recovery.
“The road to recovery is a long and difficult one,” said Jason Jerry, M.D., medical director of FirstHealth Behavioral Services. “Our hope for this website is that it shortens the path to healing, increases linkage to treatment and recovery resources and services, and helps increase community awareness in an attempt to facilitate prevention efforts and reduce the stigma attached to addiction.” In particular, the website offers:
Listings of Facilities and Organizations That Can Help
The website provides a comprehensive list of all organizations offering help, including facilities offering medicated-assisted treatment to combat dependence to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates, treatment and recovery services listed by county, FirstHealth Behavioral Services and more.
Peer Support Specialists
Peer Support Specialists are Sandhills-area residents who are living in recovery of substance- and opioid-use disorder and provide support to those seeking it. Certified through the North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist Program, these peers listen, encourage and guide individuals through a recovery process from someone who has “been there and done that.”
Ways to Reduce Harm
A section of the website devoted to reducing the consequences associated with drug use includes information and purchase sites for Narcan, also known as Naloxone, an FDA-approved drug that blocks opioid receptor sites within the brain and can prevent overdose deaths; list of HIV/Hep C screening clinics; facts about pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, a pill used to lower the chances of becoming infected with HIV; list of syringe exchange programs; and a list of permanent drop box locations for safe disposal of unwanted, unused or expired medications.
Guidance for Reducing Drug-Use Stigma and Increasing Focus on Prevention, Recovery
The website also offers materials for changing society’s conversation about drug use from one of condemnation to encouragement. A one-page document outlines terms to stop and start using; for example, instead of labeling an individual as an “addict”, use the phrase “a person with substance use disorder or a person who uses drugs.” Additionally, information is provided to explain the Good Samaritan laws stating that individuals who experience a drug overdose or persons who witness an overdose and seek help for the victim can no longer be prosecuted for possession of small amounts of drugs, paraphernalia, or underage drinking. The purpose of the law is to remove the fear of criminal repercussions for calling 911 to report an overdose, and to instead focus efforts on getting help to the victim.
Opioid use is extensive in the Sandhills. In 2017, the five-county area of Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore and Richmond counties recorded 44 opioid poisoning deaths, 158 opioid poisoning emergency department visits and 769 emergency visits for all drug poisonings, according to data from the North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT).
“Being part of the FirstHealth Recovery Resources website helps bring awareness to our agency’s efforts to provide a continuum of care to those struggling with opioid addiction within our community,” said Aja Williams, chief operating officer of Spectrum Recovery, Inc. in Sanford. “The website is instrumental when it comes to assisting those seeking recovery and those who are currently in active recovery, as there are provider resources for every stage of the recovery process in one location.”
Karen Wicker, executive director of Drug Free Moore County in Carthage agreed with Williams. “As a partner with SORC, Drug Free Moore County has been able to extend our reach to help families in Moore County,” Wicker commented. “The new website not only provides much needed resource information for those seeking recovery, but it has highlighted the peer support program and other drug-free initiatives, thus helping our coalition strengthen our support efforts.”
The website release comes on the heels of news that SORC won a $1 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration to implement activities to address opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery. Goals of this grant include a reduction of overdose deaths and overdose emergency department visits by 50 percent, expanded treatment access and elimination or reduction of treatment costs for at least 10 uninsured or underinsured patients, and expanded access to recovery services so more than 400 people battling addictions can start and stay in recovery.
FirstHealth Community Health Services assesses community needs and responds to those needs through programs and services that extend beyond the hospital walls. For more information, visit www.firsthealth.org/communityhealth.