The Drug Free Montgomery County Coalition met March 10 to discuss plans for moving forward with the 2022 Comprehensive Community Plan.
A comprehensive community plan uses input from the entire community to define values and a vision for the future to guide physical growth and development. Within a comprehensive community plan, social, economic and environmental indicators are gathered, analyzed and reported to identify and address local problems. The plan also includes strategies for implementation with specific ways to measure and evaluate progress.
Results from the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment along with the collection of local and state data, led the Drug Free Montgomery County Coalition to identify the following three problem statements:
1. Substance use by adults in Montgomery County is creating a high level of child abuse/neglect creating trauma and adverse childhood experiences for our youth.
2. There is not adequate access to mental health and substance use services in Montgomery County.
3. Many individuals involved in the criminal justice system, from arrest to release, have no or inadequate housing, increasing their risk factors to include homelessness and possible recidivism or probation violations.
The first problem statement regarding child abuse/neglect was established from data collected from 2022 Kids Count Data that concluded Montgomery County has a child abuse rate of 28 for every 1,000 children, which was found to be 55% higher than the state average. Child abuse was recognized as one of the 10 possible adverse childhood experiences for children/youth. The Indiana Department of Child Services Practice Indicator Reports stated that in the state of Indiana, historically, parental drug or alcohol use contributed to almost two-thirds of Department of Child Services removals of children from their families.
Establishment of the second problem statement regarding inadequate access to mental health and substance use services was due to data obtained from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps that concluded Montgomery County has a higher patient to provider ratio than the state average for mental health providers. Indiana Youth Institute data states the ratio is 940:1, which is higher than the state average. The county’s patient to provider ratios for primary care providers and dental care providers are also higher than the state average. Patients with private insurance are often not able to be seen in Montgomery County due to licensure required for treatment professionals. Additionally, they struggle with recruitment for open positions.
The third and final problem statement regarding individuals within the criminal justice system was established due to the collection of data that concluded, according to the sheriff’s department and adult probation, at the time of release from jail or the Jail Chemical Addiction Program, being placed on probation, a high percentage of offenders do not have a safe and sober home to return to or continue to reside in. This often leads to them living with others who may still be actively using illegal substances, creating a higher risk for recidivism and relapse. This is particularly true as we do not have adequate treatment services to meet their needs for relapse prevention upon release.
To address these problems within the community, the Drug Free Montgomery County Coalition has developed four subcommittees, which include prevention-education, harm reduction, law enforcement and first response and treatment and recovery. Each subcommittee has agreed upon specific goals with strategies and action items to help achieve them.
I got an inside look at a few things each subcommittee will be working on over the upcoming year. One strategy the prevention-education team will be focusing on is identifying additional educational curriculum for addressing substance use issues for high school students and youth programs.
The harm reduction team will be focusing on implementing quarterly harm reduction and Narcan trainings for active users as well as the general community. These trainings will educate individuals on Narcan, which is the number one dispensed Naloxone used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
One strategy the law enforcement and first response team will be focusing on is increasing the capacity of the Quick Response Team by adding a police officer(s), clergy and peer recovery specialist(s).
The last committee, the treatment and recovery team, will be focusing on increasing the number of individuals in recovery by increasing the peer recovery presence and support in the area.
For more information on Drug Free Montgomery County or how to get involved, check out their website: https://drugfreemoco.org.
Jadan Fithian is a Montgomery County Health Department intern.
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