A Coordinated Response to the Opioid Epidemic in North Country
Special Projects Fund
May 2, 2016
The opioid epidemic has been called the worst drug crisis in American history; death rates now rival those of AIDS during the 1990s, and overdoses from heroin and other opioids now kill more than 27,000 people a year.
New York has not been spared—in 12 upstate New York counties alone, the number of heroin overdoses has jumped 417% from 2009 to 2013. In response to this emerging crisis, Essex County Public Health (ECPH) established the Essex County Heroin and Opioid (ECHO) Prevention Coalition, a multiagency collaboration to prevent and reduce heroin and opiate use and addiction. A top priority for the coalition is to launch a Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program in Essex County and beyond. An evidence-based, effective approach to combat substance use disorders, SBIRT can reduce health care costs, decrease severity of drug and alcohol use, and reduce risk of trauma. In 2016, NYSHealth awarded ECPH a grant to introduce and implement SBIRT into Essex County, and eventually other North Country counties.
Under this grant, ECPH launched SBIRT in multiple health care settings in the region. Specifically, ECPH hired a coordinator to provide assistance in implementing SBIRT and increase awareness and education of opioid and heroin use. The coordinator improved linkages between care providers in Essex and other North Country counties, helping to develop policies that formalize the use of screening and interventions for vulnerable groups. Programmatic and technical support was given in areas such as SBIRT screening tool selection and integration of SBIRT into electronic health records. The coordinator also worked closely with the ECHO Prevention Coalition in creating a referral resource list as a tool to connect emergency departments, safety-net providers, and public health centers using SBIRT with treatment options for high-risk patients.