GREENVILLE — As reported late last month, the Coalition for a Healthy Darke County was approached by Ohio State University in what may be a game-changer in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
Amy Farmer M.A. Community Engagement Coordinator for the HEALing Community Study (HCS) to Help to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) provided more information on this ground-breaking, nationally-based study last week.
Farmer is a liaison between the Coalition and the OSU research committee, and brings individuals with varying backgrounds together as part of the research study, something the Coalition is already doing.
“In Darke County, we are already at the table,” explained Farmer. The Coalition is composed of nearly 60 community stakeholders from multiple sectors, including healthcare and criminal justice. The team participated in a strategic planning meeting to create a comprehensive strategic plan to combat substance abuse in the county six years ago.
The Coalition’s teamwork is what made them a prime candidate for the study, so, for Farmer, “It is a matter of making them aware of the research goals, answering questions, and keeping everyone focused on meeting sometimes tight parameters of the research.”
In short, Darke County is already well ahead of other communities in the HCS study, a National Institute of Health (NIH) funded project with a committed multi-million dollar budget for the next three years. Those funds allocated to 67 counties in four states: Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio.
First wave counties such as Darke County will act as a guide to assist other communities with a menu of intervention options to choose from to reduce overdose deaths.
However, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution and is community-engaged and community-driven.
Farmer, a life-long Darke County resident with a background in healthcare marketing, explained how the new position was a calling.
“It was something big I could be a part of and help my local community at the same time,” said Farmer with a desire to work in an environment where she could make a difference. She further explained it is not a top-down research study, but one where they [research team] genuinely want to know what is going to work best in each local community.
Farmer went through extensive training with three other engagement coordinators in Guernsey, Cuyahoga, and Scioto counties. Since the study has rural and urban components, it offers an opportunity to hear of the varied struggles and challenges other communities are facing in the opioid epidemic. It is also an opportunity to work with a diverse team with “different views and perspectives,” said Farmer. “It’s very refreshing.”
Currently, Farmer anticipates the start of the Coalition’s media campaigns, which should begin this spring.
“I think we have an opportunity to impact the stigma surrounding opioid use disorder,” said Farmer, who sees stigma as the biggest challenge. In particular, changing not only how the public sees those struggling with addiction but how they are addressed. “You have to change your vernacular; it has to be approached as a chronic disease.”
“Once the addiction is there, it is a painful process to stop taking them,” continued Farmer, with the study and research to aid in the fight against other addictions or issues.
“I think the lessons that we learn and the collaboration we are able to foster will be useful as we face other challenges,” continued Farmer. “You bring all these people to the table, and they have a common purpose, to focus on common goals, [it’s] experience that will help Darke County address any challenges that come up in the future.”
Farmer noted a correction to the previous article in that the committed dollar amount is not $16.5 million but a staggering $354 million across the four states. An amount reported by the NIH “to support research on the effectiveness of a comprehensive, data-driven, community-engaged intervention designed to increase the adoption of an integrated set of evidence-based practices to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths and associated outcomes.”
A few items one can review now on the opioid epidemic:
*Netflix series, the Pharmacist
*Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones
*Addiction, PBS NOVA season 45, episode 12, online at www.pbs.org/video/addiction-afsxne.