MOUNT GILEAD — Drug & Alcohol Awareness & Prevention of Morrow County discussed the HEALing Communities Study before the local coalition voted to decline to participate in the multi-state program at its quarterly meeting Thursday.

Helping to End Addiction Long-term is an initiative undertaken by a consortium of 4 universities. The HEALing Communities Study’s goal is to determine how to address the opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment and recovery.

Ashley Hisey-Buchanan, DAAP coordinator, outlined the pros and cons of the study, which originally was presented as a grant. The county could have received $900,000 over 2 years, but few specifics were given despite 11 months having passed since it was announced.

“It is to assist with evidence-based strategies or enhancing evidence-based strategies to expand Naloxone distribution, overdose prevention, treatment engagement,” according to initial information DAAP received from OSU.

“It was originally presented as a grant. Now it’s a study. There are too many unknowns and it’s still being developed,” Morrow County Sheriff John Hinton said. He voiced strong opposition to being part of the study.

DAAP members remained very concerned about changes to the original proposal, notably the removal of school-based prevention programs from the study, and the overall lack of information.

Much of what the local group does — Parents Who Host Lose The Most and Hidden In Plain Sight are two program examples — involves Morrow County schools officials, students and their parents. Several noted that the removal of the school-based program runs contrary to the coalition’s mission.

There is a package to focus on community intervention, but Hisey-Buchanan said it is unclear what specifically that would entail.

“This coalition is doing a lot of good things. Is it worth the risk to go down a slippery slope? To me there are too many red flags,” said Lt. Gurjit Grewal, post commander of the Ohio Highway Patrol’s Mount Gilead post.

Grant awards were issued to the University of Kentucky, Boston Medical Center, Columbia University and OSU. Each site is partnering with at least 15 communities to measure the impact of integrating evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery interventions across primary care, behavioral health, justice and other settings in highly affected parts of the country.

The study is to be implemented in 2 waves. The 10 counties in the first wave are Ashtabula, Athens, Cuyahoga, Darke, Guernsey, Greene, Hamilton, Lucas, Morrow and Scioto. The 9 counties in the second wave are Allen, Brown, Franklin, Huron, Jefferson, Ross, Stark, Williams and Wyandot.

Deanna Brant, Executive Director of the Delaware-Morrow Mental Health & Recovery Services Board, said it is difficult to walk away from funding. She cast her vote to participate, despite the concerns she and others had raised.

“It could expand services and a lot of what we do,” Brant said. “But I understand there is the sustainability; what do you do after the 2 years.”

The National Institutes of Health NIH and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration launched the HEALing Communities Study to investigate how tools for preventing and treating opioid misuse and opioid use disorder are most effective at the local level.

By Anthony Conchel

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