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News : Help Line Aimed at Assisting Addicts
Toledo, OH, USA, Jan 11, 2016 -- A survey to collect community input on the opiate and heroin epidemic in the Toledo area revealed a startling shortcoming: 57 percent of the 4,000 people who responded didn't know whom to call for resources on mental health and drug treatment.
The revelation put behavioral experts, health officials, and law enforcement into action on filling the void to make it easier for people to navigate the local mental-health and substance abuse system.
The culmination of their efforts went live Jan. 1 with the launch of a recovery help line that directs individuals to treatment services through the United Way of Greater Toledo's 2-1-1 information and referral service.
Scott Sylak, executive director of Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services, said United Way's established screening process is being used to connect people to the emergency crisis providers in the agency's system.
"Lucas County residents will be referred to resources for a more formalized triage," he said. "They will have direct connections to agencies that can provide the service or link to emergency services."
The ultimate goal, he said, is to get people into treatment within 24 to 48 hours of calling 2-1-1, and on track for routine continuous professional care.
While the survey that spawned the pilot program grew out of concern over the opiate and heroin problem, behavioral and health experts are looking at the whole spectrum of mental health and drug and alcohol abuse issues to help the people who want it.
Mr. Sylak said it is not just for addicts, but for their family and friends to get them in contact with the resources that can offer help.
"This is for everybody. All addictions and mental health issues. It is a good idea to get addiction and mental health services within that 24-hour time period. We are transforming the whole system around this," he said. "We think we could serve as a model for the state."
To get the word out about services through 2-1-1, Mr. Sylak said the Mental Health and Recovery Service board has entered into a $100,000 contract with Thread Marketing Group to launch a campaign, which will include advertising in newspapers, on radio, television, and billboards as well as social media.
"We would like to have some director marketing to systems likes Lucas County Children Services, the court system, Jobs and Family Services. We want to make it easy for people to get help," he said.
Currently, the recovery helpline through the 2-1-1 system is set up to get emergency assistance for callers who live in Lucas County, where Mental and Health and Recovery Services has contracts for services with Rescue Inc. and Behavioral Connections.
Mr. Sylak said agreements are being negotiated with emergency crisis providers in Wood and Hancock counties to provide services to residents of those communities.
County Commissioner TIna Skeldon Wozniak said the United Way’s easy-to-remember number is another effective tool in the battle to curb the rising heroin and opiate epidemic.
"In my mind it is a continuous use of that number," she said. "2-1-1 is a handy number and something you can remember for accessing resources. This pulls together the plan perfectly."
United Way’s 2-1-1 was launched locally in 2005 to provide confidential information about social, health, and human services. It serves Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, and Hancock counties.
The nonemergency service is available 24 hours, every day, and provides callers with detailed information on community resources ranging from job training to volunteer opportunities.
"On a typical day we take 350 to 500 calls for all four counties. During our peak season, which is the holidays and tax season, we take 700 to 800 calls a day," said Erin Goff, community outreach director. "We have over 800 agencies in our database and those agencies have thousands of services. By far, most calls are coming in to get basic necessities — food, shelter, clothing, rent, and utilities."
Sheriff John Tharp said he knows about the need for information about recovery resources because deputies in the department’s Drug Abuse Response Team get phone calls from addicts who want help to get off drugs but don’t know where to turn.
"I think this is going to be another tool and another avenue for addicts to be able seek out help and be referred to the appropriate resources for assistance," he said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About United Way of Greater Toledo:
United Way is a coalition of charitable organizations.
Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2016