Plan attacks Butler County heroin epidemic with $3.6 million

Detox services, recovery housing, 300 Narcan kits for family and friends of opiate addicts and more residential treatment beds are just a few of the components the Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services board plans to employ to attack the heroin epidemic.

The board has approved a $3.6 million plan to tackle the burgeoning opiate addiction epidemic in Butler County. State and federal funding for addiction and recovery services in the county plummeted 22 percent between 2010 and 2014 and overdose deaths jumped 105 percent from 92 in 2012 to 189 2015.

Julie Payton, senior director of addiction services, said they are providing services, there just aren’t currently resources in the county to meet the all the needs.

“We need a more user friendly, accessible system of care for people who are addicted,” she said. “It is way easier to go get high than it is to try to figure out how to get into services.”

Payton said while the plan in its entirety is important, a couple of services are key, because there is a void in those areas now. There are currently no detox centers in the county other than a private program at Beckett Springs in West Chester Twp. Medicaid doesn’t pay for the service unless it is in a hospital setting.

“The hospital rate is two or three times the free-standing rate is and no hospitals are doing it,” Payton said. “They don’t have the beds and they don’t want to use the beds they have on this.”

She said there are no local services for low-income addicts because of the Medicaid payment rules. For those who have private insurance, detox services aren’t always a part of their coverage.

One of the solutions comes in the form of Dr. Quinton Moss and his Christian-based Genesis Center of Excellence at Hamilton's former Roosevelt Junior High School. The center is slated to get $400,000 out of state's capital budget.

Payton said while it wouldn’t be Medicaid eligible, it should be an affordable provider option for the county to pursue if they can get the funding.

The only county-sponsored recovery housing facility is run by Sojourner and currently is the home of recovering moms in the Motherhood and Maternity Addiction Services (MAMAS) program.

The plan includes $525,600 a year to provide detox services for 220 residents and $375,000 a year for recovery housing for 40 addicts. Payton described recovery housing as essentially a group effort.

“It provides housing and a supportive environment,” she said. “They are not treatment services. It’s really just housing and people who are in the same situation, in recovery who are trying to maintain their recovery.”

The two biggest items in the plan are $1.4 million each for additional adolescent and adult residential treatment beds. Medicaid would pick up about half the cost for about 80 individuals to be helped in each facility.

MHARS Executive Director Scott Rasmus said the first person he sent the 31-page plan to was Tracy Plouk, the director of Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services. Rasmus has said previously he would seek out additional state and federal funding and grants before possibly asking the county commissioners to put a tax levy on the ballot, potentially as early as next year.

“She was very willing to sit down with us and look at our state funding to see what can be done to potentially free up more dollars, especially for our allocation for our county, to help to address this business plan,” Rasmus said.

Other bullet points in the plan, in addition to beefing up treatment and recovery resources, include prevention, reducing harm — in part by providing 300 naloxone kits to first responders, friends and family to help in overdose situations — and supply reduction.

Prosecutor Mike Gmoser ran his own prevention plan a couple years ago when he visited a couple local schools, with recovering addicts in tow, to impress upon the children the dangers of drug abuse and addiction. He said he would be happy to help with the new MHARS plan and he is glad such a targeted attack is in the works.

“I look with delight at the fact that I see this agency or that government has approved $400,000 for this and $200,000 for that,” he said. “They are starting to get the point that actions that cost money are going to speak a lot louder than just ‘what are we going to do about this problem’?”

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