"It's Important to Have More 'Boots on the Ground'"
Hartford Community Coalition members share experiences from the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit
In early April, I traveled to the national RX Drug Abuse and Heroin
summit in Atlanta. The largest annual conference addressing the opioid
crisis, it featured representatives ranging from law enforcement officials, to
health care providers, to policy makers.
Since I’m new to the field of addiction prevention (only starting my work as an Addiction Prevention Coordinator for the Hartford Community Coalition in March), the summit laid a solid foundation for my work.
I attended plenary sessions on the role science plays in addressing the epidemic and learned the most effective ways to communicate prevention messages. I listened to parents who had lost children to addiction, as well as to lawmakers, such as Senator Maggie Hassen of New Hampshire and Harold Rogers, U.S. Representative from Kentucky, discuss the challenges facing their states. My biggest takeaway, in terms of my specialty, is the paradigm shift in which, more than telling kids to “just say no,” programs throughout the country are teaching young people how to cope emotionally with life’s stresses: with such tools, kids are less likely to turn to substances.
Importantly, in addition to becoming acquainted with associates from around the world, I got to know peers from my own community, including my colleagues from the HCC, Whitney Hussong and Ashley Greenfield.
Whitney, a Police Social Worker, is employed by Health Care and Rehabilitations Services (HCRS), but is embedded in the Hartford Police Department on a full-time basis. She works closely with law enforcement to assist the individuals they come in contact with who experience human service-related issues due to life circumstances and crime.
“I learned several valuable things at the Summit,” Whitney says, “but something that continued to come back to me throughout my time there was how important it is to have more ‘boots on the ground.’ I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can get out in the community and meet individuals where they are at instead of expecting them to come to an office when they are in crisis.” She adds that positions like hers are limited, though, and she’s not always the best fit for some people who seek help. “As a result,” she says, “I’d like to see more agencies being able to put more people on the streets to do more outreach.”
In her work as a Community Health Partnership Coordinator for Greater Sullivan County at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Ashley Greenfield works within the community to help identify strengths and gaps within the system of care regarding substance misuse.
“I can tell you that I brought back a significant amount of information from the summit,” she says. “Just a few are: Syringe access in rural communities, the importance of working with children who have had Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), how to better communicate with law enforcement, and much more.”
Her favorite session, she says was a panel discussion on Project POINT, a program at Eskenazi Hospital in Indiana that aims to bring recovery coaches to the hospital for patients who present with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) or Opiate Use Disorder (OUD). In this program, coaches are dispatched to the hospital to provide a transition of care from the medical facility to providers in the community – what is known as a “warm hand-off.” It’s similar to DHMC’s recent launch of program that provides coaches for patients in its emergency department.
Ashley: “I often to go to conferences with the expectation of being a sponge, to be able to come back full of knowledge, becoming re-energized in the work, and have the ability to enhance the programs we have. The Rx Summit definitely did not disappoint!”
-- Elizabeth Kelsey
Addiction Prevention Coordinator, Hartford Community Coalition