Colerain Township Quick Response Team

Colerain Township, Ohio

Geoffrey Milz, Township Administrator
Jeff Weckbach, Assistant Township Administrator

Throughout the early 2010s, Colerain Township saw a drastic increase overdoses related to heroin and opioids. At the time, Greater Cincinnati was quickly becoming a face of the opioid epidemic, and Colerain Township was feeling the effects.

Overdoses more than tripled from 2011 to 2016. The loss of life and toll on families, emergency responders, and the community were reaching an all-time high. In addition to the increases in addiction and overdoses, the township was experiencing an uptick in addiction-related criminal activity, particularly property crimes.

At this juncture, township leaders recognized that while they could not control whether or not someone takes a drug, they could control the availability of resources to help someone break the cycle of addiction. They identified a “golden second” in which people who suffer from addiction are ready for help and treatment. However, people who need help often hit a roadblock because they lack resources, and frequently they are reluctant to seek help from the local government for fear of being judged or arrested. This understanding prompted the creation of a Quick Response Team (QRT) to help bring resources directly to an individual’s doorstep.

Colerain Township implemented the QRT in July 2015. The team includes members of the Fire Department, Police Department, and local Addiction Services Council. Within a few days of an overdose incident, a police officer, a specially trained tactical medic, and a licensed substance abuse counselor follow up with an individual in his or her home. Each member of the team has a slightly different role:

  • The officer focuses on providing a safe environment for the team and leads any investigations into the criminal aspects of the overdose—such as the illegal drug supply.
  • The paramedic assists with any health-related issues and helps family members understand how to care for a person who overdoses. Members of the team carry Narcan (a medication that reverses an opioid overdose) at all times.
  • The substance abuse counselor helps the individual understand the challenges ahead and provides help navigating the steps to entering a treatment facility.

Since its inception, the QRT has responded to more than 1,050 incidents, and 80% of individuals contacted by the QRT have entered treatment. These numbers are accompanied by decreases in crime, morbidity and mortality associated with addiction, mental trauma, and call volume for public safety responders. QRT also has increased community engagement and trust.

The township quickly discovered that it could do even more. In 2018 Colerain implemented a “Safe Station” program through which individuals or their family members can show up at any of the five fire stations and request help for any type of addiction. Team members then help connect them with a substance abuse counselor and treatment.

The township’s assistant fire chief, a champion of the program, best describes why this program works: “The QRT works because it’s a community-based approach. That’s its magic. You cross paths with those you’ve helped because you live in the same community they do. That’s a huge win for everyone.”

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