West Virginia is one of the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis. The most recent CDC data reveal that 974 West Virginia residents died from a drug overdose in 2017, leaving far too many families devastated. It can be easy to get so caught up in the bad news that we forget there is hope, but 10 innovative programs are offering promise. Dedicated, imaginative innovators all around the Mountain State are trying new, effective approaches to address their shared challenges.
The Innovations Now initiative recognizes innovators and leaders across multiple sectors needed at the table to address addiction–prevention, treatment, recovery, child welfare, criminal justice, law enforcement and health professionals. These leaders are creating solutions and driving change.
The West Virginia Innovation Now report features 10 groundbreaking programs you need to know about.
As the opioid epidemic worsens, the impact on families increases. Too often seeking treatment means leaving a child behind. But through Project Hope for Women and Children, mothers can receive treatment while staying with their child. “No mom should ever have to pick one over the other,” says Project Hope Executive Director Jessica Tackett. “That’s where we enter the picture. Here, moms can look after their kids and receive treatment at the same time.”
2. Lily's Place
Lily’s Place helps West Virginia’s most vulnerable residents -- babies. After two nurses discovered a significant increase in babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) they created Lily’s Place, the first standalone NAS treatment center in the United States. Lily’s Place helps infants with NAS, and supports, educates and counsels the families and caregivers offering crucial wrap-around services.
Provider Response Organization for Addiction Care and Treatment (PROACT) improves treatment access. The program provides a comprehensive assessment, education, intervention and treatment in a single hub. PROACT’s innovative solution helps hundreds of patients by eliminating barriers.
First responders are on the front lines of the opioid crisis. Most of the time they’re the people patients see when revived from an overdose. In 2017, the Quick Response Team began operating in Huntington. The team consists of one EMT, one law enforcement official not in uniform, one treatment provider, and one faith-based leader. Within 48 hours of an overdose, the team visits the patient and offers to connect them with services. Showing compassion, the team builds trust with patients to encourage them to find treatment and to reach out in the future.
Circuit Judge William Thompson became concerned about his hurting community. In 2008, he started the Boone County Drug Court, providing alternatives to incarceration for people charged with addiction-related offenses. Judge Thompson asks participants to share their stories and lets them know that honesty is rewarded. Addiction is a chronic brain disease for which relapse is a part of the recovery process. Instead of kicking people out of the program, Judge Thompson works with them through their recovery and provides aftercare for graduates to ensure they stay on the right track.
The Jefferson Day Report Center (JDRC) keeps people out of prison, saves money, and reinvests that money in evidence-based treatment and supervision programs. It’s a win, win, win, situation. That’s exactly what West Virginia native Ronda Eddy thought when she founded the Jefferson Day Report Center. The center is a community corrections organization that provides an alternative to incarceration. JRDC provides telehealth services and medication-assisted treatment to patients. The truly amazing thing about this program: it uses someone testing positive for a substance as a time to reassess treatment instead of punishing for a relapse.
People need someone they can relate to, and that’s even more important when it comes to addiction recovery. Recovery Point is a treatment facility providing peer-to-peer counseling. “There’s something unique about walking into a building and knowing that every person you see is a person in long-term recovery, and most likely a graduate of that model,” Greg Perry explains. “So it’s all based on identifying with others who’ve been there and done that.” 92% of Recovery Point’s employees completed the program or are in recovery allowing staff to offer first-hand guidance.
Within three years, 16 young adults died from a drug overdose in Jackson County. Community leaders recognized something needed to change so they started the Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition (JCADC) to discuss ways to combat substance misuse in the community. The coalition pioneered early drug take-back efforts, created the state’s first drug incinerators, and worked with a local legislator to pass West Virginia’s synthetic drugs law. JCADC made a difference for their community and director Amy Haskins says, “If we can make a difference for ourselves, we’re happy, but if we can make a difference on a state level, that’s the icing on the cake for us.
When a law enforcement officer realizes there’s a problem in the home, a message is sent to the school to “handle with care.” Those three words alone alert the school to pay closer attention to students and help them focus on learning. School staff provide interventions such as helping with homework, offering food and making counselors available.
Many people in West Virginia live in rural areas where it is hard to get addiction treatment. Dr. James Berry is changing that. Thanks to his research, the effectiveness of teletreatment has been established. Similar to telemedicine, teletreatment removes barriers such as distance and low income, offering more opportunity for people to get help. Dr. Berry says, “We’re working with world-renowned neuroscientists and, as a result, we’re discovering more about addiction every day. That, in turn, will lead to advancements in helping people. Because we know addiction treatment works.”
Innovation Now spotlights programs that, when scaled up, can help communities all over the country. Implementing just one program could make all the difference for children, new mothers, students, parents, patients and families. These 10 programs are saving lives and giving us hope in a time of crisis.