Every community across the country is battling the opioid epidemic. The ones that are showing progress are working together.
(Below: Watch the Fox6 News report on a new kind of addiction task force in Milwaukee.)
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, responders on the front lines understand that collaboration is critical to address the complex issues surrounding addiction. That's why community leaders - including CleanSlate - have stepped up to support the Milwaukee Overdose Response Initiative (MORI), a task force created by a team of firefighters to operationalize recommendations from the Milwaukee City-County Heroin, Opioid, and Cocaine Task Force (CCHOCFTF).
“We can’t get people to get clean if they die," said Capt. Michael Wright, Milwaukee Fire Dept.
MORI helps people understand the proper use of the safety net that surrounds them, coordinate different databases to uncover trends, and streamline access to treatment so that people get immediate help when they need it most.
(Above, pictured left to right: Kari Rummel, CleanSlate Glendale Medical Assistant/Certified Recovery Coach/Peer Support Specialist; Steven Radomski, HEO Paramedic; Brenda Bryson, CleanSlate Glendale Center Manager; and Jonathan Belott, HEO Paramedic.)
Surviving an overdose is only step one
While Narcan has been crucial in helping people survive an overdose, the overdose-reversal drug isn't the same as treatment. Without follow-up care, someone who overdoses once will likely do so again.
MORI understands that the real work begins after a patient survives an overdose. That's when the task force commences emergency follow-up care.
When first responders identify a frequent user of opioids who has overdosed, community paramedics are alerted.
"Then we put together a team, a diverse team of community paramedics and peer support, addiction support specialists, and we go and visit the patient," said Captain Wright.
That patient is visited the day after their overdose. The MORI team spends time encouraging the person to seek treatment and helping to facilitate the recovery process.
(Above: Announcing MORI to the community and media.)
"We start offering them services that are already available," said Captain Wright. "Harm reduction items, needle exchange."
If the patient isn't ready to receive treatment, the MORI team leaves a "go-pack" so that the patient has the right information at his fingertips.
This high-touch community interaction is being praised by city leaders for helping patients immediately after an overdose, a critical moment in their potential recovery.
Related blog: Bright Spot With Opioid Epidemic: Prescription Opioid Use Plummeting, Medication Treatment Growing
Seeing MORI in action
As a founding member of MORI, CleanSlate staff in Glendale, Wisconsin participate in ride-alongs. Recently, Kari Rummel and Brenda Bryson, two staff members at CleanSlate's Glendale addiction treatment center joined the MORI team on their first ride-along.
"Each morning, Captain Wright gets a list of anyone who overdosed the day before," said Brenda Bryson, Center Manager at CleanSlate Glendale. "The MORI team visits the patient to see if we can make a connection and get this patient into treatment. It's an incredible initiative and we're proud to be a part of this coordinated effort."
The proof for this level of care will come over time, but the Milwaukee Fire Department says they've already identified frequent callers.
"The work begins now," said Captain Wright.