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Recovery support, stopping stigma and harm reduction common strategies in regional opioid response

Apr 8, 2022

For the third year in a row, Interact for Health convened state-level leaders in the response to the opioid epidemic to share recent updates and discuss other common issues facing communities in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. This year’s webinar, held on March 22, included: 

More than 60 people participated.

“I just love seeing the synergy when we bring this group of experts together,” said Sonya Carrico, Senior Program Officer for Interact for Health’s opioid team.

Ingram, Huntsinger and Shadwick provided highlights from a variety of initiatives, with several common issues being addressed, including:

Support for people in recovery 

All three states are working to provide help to people after they leave treatment programs. Kentucky has 11 recovery community centers to serve as informal gathering places for people in recovery. Ingram noted that the center in Manchester hosted sober Super Bowl and New Year’s Eve parties. 

Indiana is supporting a concept called Recovery Cafés with 10 now operating.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this project,” Huntsinger said. “The cafés offer a low-barrier place for people in recovery to access support.” 

Recovery Ohio is working to promote recovery-friendly workplaces, Shadwick said. A partnership with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation allows Ohio employers to get legal advice on topics such as second chance policies and reimbursement for drug testing.

Stopping stigma

Both Ohio and Kentucky have prioritized reducing stigma associated with substance use disorder. Ohio’s $9 million “Beat the Stigma” campaign features ads with a mock game show. It launched in November 2021 and will run through the end of 2022. The campaign is a partnership of Recovery Ohio, the Nationwide Foundation and other partners, Shadwick said.

Kentucky’s stigma reduction campaign Unshame Kentucky launched earlier this month and features stories of recovery from people throughout the state.

Access to harm reduction

“It’s important to give people options until that day they are ready to accept treatment,” Ingram said. “It’s important to keep them alive.” 

Accordingly, all three states have harm reduction initiatives in place to distribute naloxone (commonly known under the brand name Narcan) and to provide fentanyl test strips. Kentucky’s naloxone distribution, coordinated by the state pharmacists’ association, distributed 55,000 kits in fiscal year 2021 and is on pace to distribute about as many kits in fiscal year 2022.

Indiana has invested in ways to bring naloxone to public spaces, funding 19 naloxone vending machines and 430 Naloxboxes. One of those Naloxboxes is located outside a bar in rural Bicknell in the southwestern part of the state. The bar decided to install the overdose reversal supplies after having six overdoses in six months time, Huntsinger said. 

Recovery Ohio supports 23 overdose strike teams, Shadwick said, providing access to harm reduction services and treatment.

The webinar covered a variety of other topics, including needs related to housing and transportation, distribution of opioid settlement funding and implementation of the 988 suicide and mental health crisis hotline. A recording of the complete conversation is available on Interact for Health's YouTube channel.

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