By Mark Powell
After Overdose, A Lifesaver
Suddenly, there’s a situation. A person has just overdosed on opioids. Or they’re at high risk of starting to reuse and misuse at any minute. Time is critical. What do you do to make sure they get the help they desperately need?
Hospital workers, Quick Response Teams and treatment providers in Cincinnati know where to turn in time of trouble: the Hamilton County Engagement Center. It’s a triage unit that quickly sizes up a patient’s situation, stabilizes them and connects them with the outpatient services they need. It also provides withdrawal management, medication-assisted treatment, group and individual therapy, case management, and peer recovery coaching during the patient’s stay.
A first for the region, the 20-bed residential facility opened in May 2018. It’s operated by Talbert House in partnership with the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. “It’s the only program in southwest Ohio where somebody can get access to care and a bed immediately post-overdose,” says Josh Arnold, vice president of addictions for Talbert House.
It’s available to any Hamilton County resident or Ohio Medicaid patient who needs urgent help. A safe space is provided to people struggling with addiction so they can withdraw and get connected to the resources necessary for long-term recovery. The top priority is providing stability to patients. Stays are, on average, six days. While it’s not a medical facility, a medical director oversees the center’s services.
In less than one year, the Engagement Center is producing incredible results. It served 493 patients during its first nine months. Medication-assisted treatment was administered to 85 percent of the patients; 70 percent were sent home with a successful medical discharge plan with social support systems established.
Not only does the Engagement Center make sure its patients’ needs are addressed, but this innovative facility also helps reduce the pressure on overburdened hospitals, first responders and families. And it enables the county to provide a cost-effective and immediate treatment alternative, which greatly assists in successful recovery for residents struggling with addiction.
Talbert House knows all about assisting people who need a helping hand. “The agency started in 1965 as a place for men coming out of prison,” Arnold says. “But we quickly evolved. We understood that people have complex problems and complications in their lives. We wanted to be a part of the solution.”
Besides the Engagement Center, Talbert House also assists with mental health needs, community corrections, housing and employment.
Arnold recently met a woman who had overdosed three times. She’d been in recovery for about a year. “Then her mother and grandfather overdosed and passed away. It was too much for her to handle, and she relapsed.” A Quick Response Team led her to the Engagement Center. “When I met her, she had been here for about three days. She remembered how healthy she felt during her recovery, and that led to her wanting to resume medication-assisted treatment. Now she’s back home, in treatment, employed and connecting with her children. That’s just one example of how the Engagement Center is making a big difference in hundreds of lives.”
Hamilton County Engagement Center was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.