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Huntington is the epicenter of recovery, national drug policy director says

December 19, 2018
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Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Connie Priddy, QRT coordinator for Cabell County EMS, gives a presentation to James Carroll, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, at Cabell County EMS Headquarters in Huntington. Carroll visited Huntington to learn more about the community's efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

HUNTINGTON - When James Carroll, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, read about what Huntington was doing to combat the opioid epidemic, he decided he needed to see it in person.

Carroll spent Tuesday touring the city, meeting with the leaders of Project Hope and the Quick Response Team, along with the leaders of the Huntington Police Department, the Huntington Fire Department and Cabell County EMS.

Carroll said he is taking many lessons back to Washington, D.C.

“One of the first things is get community acceptance into what is happening,” he said. “Get rid of the stigma and have everyone willing to participate. When you look at the success of the Quick Response Team and you look at the dramatic decrease in overdoses, you realize there is a successful story here. People think of Huntington as being the epicenter of the problem, but really Huntington has become an epicenter of what works, and that’s what I need to tell people. I need to get people to understand that coming together as a community works.”

During a presentation from the Quick Response Team (QRT), which visits overdose victims within 72 hours of the overdose and works to get them into treatment, Carroll was blown away by the statistic that overdoses in the city are down 40 percent from 2017.

“That’s not happening anywhere else,” Carroll said.

Just by using the cost of an ambulance trip alone, the reduction in overdoses will save the city $350,000.

“This is amazing. Think of all the families behind that,” Carroll said.

By the end of the year, the QRT members will have met with 500 of the about 1,000 individuals on their list. Of that 500, 30 percent have entered treatment.

Carroll went on some home visits with a QRT team member Tuesday as well.

Carroll said Project Hope, a new venture of Marshall Health and the Huntington City Mission that provides addiction treatment to women with children, is faith in action.

“When you go in the room and you see the welcome package, I can only imagine what it must be like for a mom to come in with her children and really have hope,” he said. “It really is the title of the building.”

Carroll said not many communities across the country have been able to come together like Huntington has. He said Baltimore has a massive problem but won’t even share data about it, and many of its residents, especially those on the front lines, have lost hope.

Connie Priddy, QRT coordinator for Cabell County EMS, said the goal is to just change one person’s mind about the QRT, Narcan, harm reduction and all the other efforts at a time.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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