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Peer Response Team Formed to Tackle Opioid Epidemic

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Several agencies of the Broome Opioid Abuse Council (BOAC) have formed a new Peer Response Team to help tackle the opioid crisis. The program is working to link at-risk individuals to treatment and support services in Broome County.

"Today we are putting boots on the ground," said Broome County Executive, Jason Garnar. "Right now we can pull up a map and see where all the overdoses have occurred in the county. That's important to deliver public health warnings if we see any spikes." 

The program works in conjunction with the Overdose Detection Mapping Application (ODMAP), a program that provides real-time overdose data. The Broome County Intelligence Center can identify people they feel are at risk for an opioid overdose through the ODMAP, and then can notify the Addiction Center of Broome County (ACBC). After the Peer Recovery Advocates from ACBC are notified, they would then work directly with law enforcement to establish contact with at-risk individuals and provide wellness checks. 

"We will be taking peers that are going to ride along with either myself or local municipalities to go talk to these people and see if they are willing to accept the help that is going to be provided to them," said Jeffrey Wagner, Investigator for Broome County District Attorney's Office.

Wagner says they have already started the ride along's. Just yesterday, the investigator had a peer for ACBC with him out on interviews. Executive Director of the Addiction Center of Broome County, Carmela Pirich, says at-risk individuals may feel more comfortable talking to a peer than law enforcement, which makes the collaborated effort among the BOAC so important.

The peer advocates will also work directly with at-risk individuals to make sure their basic needs are met, such as housing, social services, transportation or other needs the person could be struggling with. 

UHS is also working within the group. The hospital recently launched an emergency department navigator program in Binghamton General Hospital. The program targets individuals who are present in the emergency room from an overdose, and provides people the link to treatment, recovery resources and support groups. 

"When people overdose they ultimately end up in the hospital. So right now what the hospitals are doing is after the overdose and after they have been cared for, we're going to go another level and they will be connected to the peers for the next level of treatment, and that's something completely new," said Garnar.

The groups involved in the initiative include law enforcement, the Broome County's District Attorney's Office, Broome County Health Department, Broome County Office of Emergency Services, Broome County Mental Health, The Addiction Center of Broome County, UHS. Fairview Recovery Services and Lourdes Hospital. Fairview Recovery Services will also be training additional peers to be available to help support the effort.