The Opioid Crisis
Over the past three years, Palm Beach County has become an epicenter in the state for the deadly opioid crisis, with the number of opioid-related deaths hitting epidemic proportions in 2016 – 571 lives lost. An upward trend in deaths continued with nearly 600 fatal overdoses recorded in 2017. Those in the throes of addiction or cycling between treatment and addiction were straining community resources.
In response to the opioid crisis, Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network (SEFBHN) partnered with Palm Healthcare Foundation, Hanley Foundation and the Town of Palm Beach United Way to bring the Rapid Results Institute to Palm Beach County. This institute is an international non-profit organization that pioneered the use of 100-day challenges and the Rapid Results Approach to help organizations and communities solve tough societal problems.
Local leaders from non-profits, for profits and government came together for the first time on February 2, 2018 to turbocharge a collaborative system in Palm Beach County to combat the opioid crisis. The effort involved more than 80 individuals including care navigators, treatment centers, certified recovery residences, hospital representatives, law enforcement and peer specialists in the recovery field.
100-Day Challenge team members examined the current system of care and identified critical points in which an individual may fall through the gaps of service, particularly those without insurance or financial resources. They also strategized and set goals on ways to strengthen entry points into patient care for those battling addiction. The overarching goal for the challenge was to establish an operational system that connects anyone with opioid use disorder to appropriate services, including medication assisted treatment, at 15 participating treatment centers and 25 *FARR-Certified Recovery Residences with proper support and/or recovery navigators. This system was expected to serve 125 persons with opioid use disorder within 100 days, indicating an improvement in linkage to services and increased engagement.
At the conclusion of the 100 days, on June 14, 2018, the team convened to share challenge results:
Why was the challenge successful?
For the first time, stakeholders from major sectors (i.e. government, non-profit and for-profit), who were previously fragmented and overwhelmed by the crisis, came together to create solutions to the opioid problem. Local organizations were empowered to make their communities healthier in an effort that extended beyond addiction treatment and into housing, transportation, education, and peer support. Despite differing philosophies on addiction treatment, all 100-Day Challenge team members were able to step outside their comfort zones and agree to embrace all treatment options, including the use of medication assisted treatment. The combination of these efforts resulted in a newly established system of care that, if supported, will continue to save lives and create a healthier Palm Beach County.
Where do we go from here? How you can help.
Resources that fueled the 100-Day Challenge provided a strong start, but your support is needed to continue the important work of saving lives. Funding is needed to sustain and broaden the impact of Palm Beach County’s new Safety Net Recovery System. Palm Healthcare Foundation has established an Opioid Response Fund to channel philanthropic support for this important work.
The most pressing need is to fund more recovery peer specialists in our community. Peer specialists work on the front-lines of this health crisis, engaging those with opioid addiction “where they are,” both literally and figuratively. This includes meeting patients during the critical window of opportunity at the hospital emergency room after an overdose. Historically, individuals who overdose have been treated and immediately discharged to the streets, where they are likely to fall back into the deadly cycle of repeated overdoses and hospitalizations. Little effort is made to disrupt this cycle through recovery efforts. Now, hospitals that agree to use the protocol established by the pilot and 100-Day Challenge will link a patient in the ER with a peer specialist for engagement. Like a health navigator, a peer specialist helps patients understand their options for recovery, including entry and access to treatment facilities, medication-assisted treatment regimens, and other options for support. Results of the ER peer specialist pilot show this intervention effectively disrupts the deadly cycle of opiate addiction.
We need your help to support the expansion of the peer specialist program to more hospitals. The engagement of peer specialists through the Safety Net Recovery System will save many lives—and you can help.
Please consider donating to the Opioid Results Fund today. Together, we can turn the tide on the opioid crisis in our community.