Howard County’s latest initiative to fight rising opioid deaths and overdoses is a partnership between Grassroots Crisis Intervention and the county health department that will provide daily walk-in drug abuse screenings and treatment referrals.
The partnership, funded by a one-year, $125,000 state grant and announced Wednesday, will allow Grassroots to hire a full-time and part-time licensed graduate social worker to conduct the screenings in Columbia from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. beginning Feb. 19. Grassroots Executive Director Ayesha Holmes said other counselors at the center will also be able to assist in screenings if needed.
“One of the things that we felt was a gap in Howard County were crisis services for residents needing intervention for their addiction,” said Howard County Health Officer Maura Rossman. “There was no place 24 hours a day somebody could go to get help if they were ready for treatment.”
Grassroots’ screenings and treatment referral services aim to fill that gap to connect residents to community treatment resources, such as outpatient services at Silverman Treatment Solutions or Columbia Addictions Center.
The counselors will use the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment method, an evidence-based approach to identify individuals at risk and link them to treatment. The method is recommended by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Howard County does not have a residential treatment facility, an issue officials have been working to solve for years, with a location search for a facility underway. Rossman said there is still no specific timeline for opening a residential facility.
Rossman said that the hope is to admit residents seeking treatment to a service within 24 hours, the services will also offer case management if needed to ensure a person successfully enters treatment. Many treatment centers only admit residents during weekday work hours, Rossman said, leaving a vulnerable gap between the treatment referral time and admittance to treatment.
“We know that when folks are ready for treatment if there is a lag in getting into treatment, that relapse is very likely,” Rossman said. “So it’s really important to link people to care in a timely manner.”
The center can house individuals who are homeless and in drug crises before they can be admitted to treatment, Holmes said, but other individuals should stay with a loved one if possible.
As of Feb. 15, 27 people have suffered fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the county, according to police data.