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WHITE COUNTY — A program to assist people in breaking the cycle of opioid addiction is expanding from Tippecanoe County into White and Jasper counties.

Thanks to a $1.034 million grant being facilitated through Valley Oak Health in Lafayette, those involved have begun a 90-day planning period this month.

Services should begin in September, said Valley Oaks Chief Strategy Officer Zoe Frantz.

“This is an expansion of the quick response team,” Frantz said, referring to the program already in place in Tippecanoe.

It’s a community-based program that utilizes peers to assist in the recovery process.

“This will include developing trauma informed recovery-oriented systems of care,” according to a press release.

At a special meeting May 21, Frantz and people from Tippecanoe County and Crawfordsville talked about the difference the program made in their communities and how it was a matter of adapting.

But mostly it’s a matter of being there for those who need it.

“Connection is the opposite of addiction,” said Nathaniel Metz, president of Phoenix Paramedic Solutions.

It’s also seeing the problem from a different perspective than traditionally and seeing it from the inside.

The program has been receiving references from law enforcement or leaving cards for EMS or emergency room personnel to give to addicts who’ve overdosed.

The goal is to make some sort contact with someone who has overdosed of who was recommended to an anonymous hotline within 72 hours, said Jason Padgett, of Recovery Matters and one of the recovery peers.

That includes visiting them in jail or prison.

A plan is crafted with a recovery specialist and what recovery looks like to them — what they would like to do and how the team can help them.

“There is no one-size-fits-all,” Padgett said. “What works for one individual doesn’t work for another.”

Metz said that one reason people don’t stay in programs is they’re not ready to quit, but there is also the cost, the impact on jobs and inability to get to the program.

Then the Phoenix EMS team will drive people to appointments and wait with them there, and the waiting often makes a difference on people not walking out, he said.

In every step, there a “warm handoff” of people introducing the opioid abuser to the next person instead of simple referrals.

Padgett said the first warm handoff isn’t enough.

Someone needs to talk besides those going through the system and treatment.

Paramedic Joe Crane, of Crawfordsville, said home safety checks are necessary not only because of roommates but medications that react badly together.

“Most people think our drug users are 20-year-olds. You’d be surprised how many of our patients are seniors,” Crane said.

Another problem is that his team is still learning about all the recovery options in a community, he said.

That’s a trouble in rural areas.

Right now, the Tippecanoe recovery support network includes a mobile response team, emergency department prescribers, peer recovery support in the community, and services that include patients and their families.

However, the fewer people involved, the better, Metz said.

The grant for the program comes through the Division of Mental Health and Addiction through the State Opioid Response Grant.

Valley Oaks will administrate it, but part of the 90-day planning will be to talk with all the stakeholders in Jasper and White counties.

That will include locating places for medical treatment, locating peers to help, talking with local policy makers, people in recovery and local first responders.

The grant will also take care of resources such as housing and transportation, Frantz said.

So far, Valley Oaks has contracted with Phoenix Paramedic Solutions to provide the Peer Recovery Outreach Team and is working with Home with Hope to provide the Peer Recovery Coaches, the press release states.

More information about Valley Oaks is available at https://valleyoaks.org. The hotline is 765-607-6771.