Now in its second year, the Hope Coalition is making headway with plans to confront the opioid crisis in Wyoming County.
The Hope Coalition formed last year with the goal of healing scars of addiction in the county through reduced overdoses, treatment and awareness building.
Last Thursday, the group got together for its bi-monthly meeting at the Dietrich Theater.
The meeting began with a webcam chat with Allison Burrell, the coalition’s connection with the University of Pittsburgh. Burrell introduced the coalition to Jaime Fawcett, who will take over her position, and also walked them through a guide for carrying out projects.
The coalition is introducing a new logo that reads “Saving and changing lives in Wyoming County.”
Donahue said he’s on a lot of state committees, and the message many are conveying is “stop, stop, stop.” Instead, he wants to instill hope, which has been the group’s mission from day one.
“We haven’t gone the negative route. We want to go the positive route,” he said. “Is it a little word? Sure, it’s just one little four-letter word, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Donahue noted that four 911 calls came in during February for overdoses in Wyoming County. There were also 911 calls for suicide attempts, Donahue said, and while he can’t say with certainty that the calls were related, this is often the case.
The suicide prevention subcommittee within the Hope Coalition will be resurrected, he said, as it’s important to recognize other issues that go hand-in-hand with addiction.
“If we’re not looking at dual-diagnosis, we’re not looking at treatment,” Donahue explained. “The mental health concerns of this area are just as significant. We’ve got to treat the whole person.”
Donahue also updated the committee on a recovery center set to open soon on Warren Street in Tunkhannock. Renovations are in the final stages and a grand opening is to be announced.
“I think it’s going to enhance everyone’s work around here,” he said.
Gene Dziak, director of Wyoming County Emergency Management Agency, said he would like to see an opioid emergency response team form within the coalition.
The team would respond to individuals who overdose and help them get into treatment.
“I’m going through Narcan like crazy. It’s good, it’s saving lives, but we’re not getting people in treatment,” Dziak said. “We’re out there treating the same individual three or four times. We’re missing it.”
Before breaking off into subcommittee meetings, Cammie Anderson, drug and alcohol prevention education coordinator, told the group that a recent program centered around addiction at the Dietrich was successful.
Along with Tunkhannock Area teacher Katie Wisnosky and a former Tunkhannock student who has dealt with addiction, Anderson helped host a discussion for people under 21 following a viewing of the film ‘Beautiful Boy.’
She explained that the adults were present to guide the discussion, but it was really a discussion for the young people who came.
“The kids in the group were at all angles,” Anderson said. “There were kids dealing with drug and alcohol at home, kids dealing with drug and alcohol now, kids who never touched the stuff. It was just such a great experience.”
The prevention and community awareness subcommittee is still planning to launch a poster contest through Tunkhannock’s STEM Academy and publish the winning entry on a billboard. Members have been looking into prices for billboards and hope to start the contest this spring.
Additionally, the subcommittee plans to be involved with a drug take back event, which has yet to be scheduled, publish a series of educational articles in the Examiner and potentially plan an awareness event.
The recovery subcommittee has plans to improve awareness of available recovery services and support the grand opening of the new center in Tunkhannock.
Improving the communication of community based activities in conjunction with the prevention subcommittee through social media is also a goal.
The treatment subcommittee is collecting data on how many overdoses come in to the hospital and the success of whether individuals have agreed to participate in a treatment program through “warm handoff” or took information on treatment programs before being discharged.
Tyler Memorial Hospital CEO Ann Marie Stevens explained that “warm handoff” gives patients an opportunity to learn about or get into a treatment program right after stabilizing from an overdose.
“We give them the information on it and the options and really try to give them support to make the decision to get additional help,” she said.
Addiction training for hospital staff at Tyler is also being planned in operation with other area agencies.
The subcommittee is scheduling EMS outreach through the EMS Consortium about compassionate treatment and looking at ancillary services available to people with addiction, such as transportation and financial assistance.
The Hope Coalition is scheduled to meet again on Thursday, May 9 at 9:30 a.m. in the Dietrich Theater.