Scaling a Multi-Pronged Response to Opioids in the North Country
Special Projects Fund
December 10, 2018
Heroin, fentanyl, and other lower-priced alternative and synthetic opioids have emerged as a serious drug threat in the nation, especially in rural areas such as New York State’s North Country.
Recent data from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) indicate that Essex County continues to experience a significant increase in annual drug treatment admissions related to opioid and fentanyl use. In 2016, NYSHealth awarded Essex County Public Health a grant to implement Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), an evidence-based program to combat drug and alcohol use, in health care settings in Essex County. In 2018, NYSHealth awarded St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Center a grant to expand SBIRT to health care providers throughout the North Country.
Under this grant, St. Joseph’s oversaw SBIRT in Essex County and expanded the model among neighboring rural North Country counties. Providers employed the model to identify and treat opioid misuse and addiction, using it as a screening tool to assess the severity of risky substance use behaviors, identify the appropriate level of treatment, and refer those who need more extensive treatment to specialty care. St. Joseph’s built upon the SBIRT model and incorporated new strategies to strengthen the program. It hired a community outreach coordinator to increase collaborations among treatment providers, local law enforcement, and county representatives. St. Joseph’s implemented a family-focused prevention program to deter or delay the onset of substance use; a drug take-back program to address the problem of unused medication in the home; trainings focused on the relationship between traumatic childhood events and opioid, fentanyl, and heroin use; and trauma-focused care trainings for local law enforcement. Through this grant, providers in the North Country have diverse strategies that better position them to address the psycho-social nature of the opioid crisis through addiction prevention, prescription monitoring, treatment and recovery, provider education and training, and increased access to mental health services without stigma for patients.