Sen. Rob Portman got a first-hand look at what he calls a “cutting edge” program that deals with drug overdose situations.
Portman was in Columbus Wednesday for a ride-along with the fire department’s Rapid Response Emergency Addiction and Crisis Team (RREACT).
“These RREACT teams go out after someone has overdosed to talk to the family, to talk to the addict to try to get them into longer-term treatment and recovery and it’s working,” Portman said.
The program started two years ago in response to central Ohio’s opioid epidemic.
Teams include representatives of the police and fire divisions along with social workers. They respond to overdose cases by offering detox and treatment programs along with a variety of other services to help remove obstacles to treatment.
Diana Kubovcik, who represents the central Ohio Area Agency on Aging on the RREACT team, says many overdose victims don’t go to the hospital.
“We knock on the door and we basically tell them we’re with RREACT programs and we’re here to provide you with assistance and get you into treatment if that’s something you’re interested in doing right now,” Kubovcik said. “You would be amazed how many times we start that conversation and two days or a week later the person calls and says I’m ready to go – what do I need to do.”
The Columbus RREACT program got a $799,105 federal grant in 2018 to increase the social work and family interaction component.
Portman said the Columbus program is now looked at as a model for success.
“Last year, Ohio had the biggest reduction in the country in terms of overdose deaths after eight years of increases every single year,” Portman said. “Last year, we had about a 22 percent decrease.”
“This is an addiction problem, not just an opioid problem and while we’ve had some success recently we still have far too many people who are addicted, who are overdosing, who are dying, who are having their lives and their family’s lives devastated by this crisis – so there’s still a lot of work to do.”