As we near the end of the year, let’s take a look at what we have accomplished in the past twelve months. Many people may be curious to learn that the initiative to reduce opioid addiction really only started recently with our White County United Way.
The White County United Way has always worked to strengthen community and maintain the quality of life of all people in White County, through financial stability, health, and education. Our local United Way takes the pulse of local problems seeking to bring innovative solutions to address them. Research shows that successful programs for instituting change evolve from community need and grow from the bottom-up through resources and interest, and eventually develop into a strategic, collaborative effort.
To this end, in April of 2018, the White County United Way met with stakeholders from the community to gauge the level of interest and investment in bringing an AmeriCorps member in the United Against Opioid Abuse initiative to White County. The group included representatives from local courts, police, sheriff, fire and city offices. All agreed that this program might benefit the community.
In September 2018, an AmeriCorps member was hired and began working. The first phase of the work was to gather community input about what had been done in the past, how the community viewed the problem, and possible solutions. Community conversations and assessments were held with the fire department, social agencies, school counselors, inmates in the county jail, ministerial association as well as other individuals involved in dealing with the substance abuse crisis in White County. In all, more than seventy individuals in twenty agencies were involved in these conversations.
In the first quarter of 2019, the United Council on Opioids was organized to bring community members and agencies together to create a strategic plan to increase communication and collaboration to continue the good work begun with various agencies and individuals. The goal was to decrease the number of overdose deaths and bring substance abuse services to those in need.
From this council, three task force groups were formed: prevention, treatment, and recovery. Each of these groups has met monthly since March working on specific goals and strategies to address substance abuse in our community.
The Prevention task force is working to increase community awareness and prevention of substance abuse. Collaborating with the White County Boys and Girls Club, youth drama club members presented a skit to 5th graders to increase awareness of opioid addiction and prescription medications. Through an AIMs grant (Accelerating Indiana Municipalities) two rounds of billboard campaigns were created and purchased in White County to share the message that recovery is possible.
The Recovery and Treatment task force groups were instrumental in working with Valley Oaks Health to bring an expansion of the Tippecanoe Quick Response Team into White County through a federal grant from the Family and Social Services Administration. The QRT began its work here in September 2019 and has contacted more than thirty clients in White County, connecting six to treatment for substance abuse.
Because of the community’s commitment and collaboration, building on what was done in the past, we are seeing progress. As we pool resources and ideas, the momentum is building and we are making a difference locally. Our successes inspire us to keep going. We can accomplish great things as we work together towards a common goal.
If you are interested in learning more or participating in this important work, please contact Whitecountyamericorps@gmail.com.
Lynn Saylor is the AmeriCorps member working with the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative alongside the White County United Way. She is a major facilitator of the United Council on Opioids serving White County and a regular contributor to local media.