By Heidi Bunch
Mineral County started in 2018 fighting the opioid crisis for real when it joined the “Resilient Eight,’’ a group of eight rural and frontier counties which were awarded a one-year U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration grant to combat the crisis.
The award allowed Churchill, Lyon, Storey, Douglas, Mineral, Nye, Esmeralda and Lincoln counties to engage in planning around developing capacity to more ably and proactively address those at risk with opioid use disorders.
With these funds, a half-time community health worker works specifically within each county addressing their needs. In Nye County, a clean needle exchange has been implemented whereas here in Mineral County, providing immediate support to those in the emergency room who have survived an opioid overdose is currently underway. With this and other plans discussed, it helps to guide future capacity-building efforts and future support funding.
Sarah Dillard, who heads up Mineral County Community Chest programs, credits her stakeholders for helping to combat the opioid crisis throughout the county. Brooke Sasser, Community Health Worker at Community Chest works one on one with inmates to help them acquire the tools needed while detained so that when released they can come out with a better understanding of opioid addiction and get the help they need to further continue their sobriety.
“Without the sheriff’s office, we wouldn’t have the numbers we have. We work with at least eight inmates consistently each month since November – both male and female,” Dillard explained.
When asked if they are seeing success in the jail program, Dillard states, “Mineral County faces its own barriers because even though we’ve identified the ongoing need for professional help with drug and alcohol counseling and therapy, that we still lack here. But it’s been a good start to building professional relationships.”
Sasser added, “And we are identifying the needs. What are the needs in the community and how can we help get them in contact with these people to help them because what we are seeing is when inmates are released from jail they don’t have a safe place to go. They don’t have a place that’s not surrounded by drugs and so we are facing some really huge boundaries. We are trying to work around them and with them. There are some really huge boundaries within the community that are keeping people from being able to successfully get help and successfully stay sober.”
Dillard explained that the state reporting regarding opioids is “pretty far behind”. Some of the data collection sites have been in question and she credits the OD Mapping system with real time data. Dillard reminds anyone who needs help to come to her office where she can reach out to partners statewide.
In June of 2019, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) praised Nevada’s bill (AB130) which would require that prescriptions for controlled substances, which includes opioids, be submitted electronically to help fight against the abuse. It becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2021.
NACDS expressed appreciation for Assembly speaker Jason Frierson (D) who was AB130’s sponsor. Frierson said, “With the signing of Assembly Bill 310, Nevada now joins the growing number of states that have passed mandatory e-prescribing laws in an effort to combat the opioid crisis. Electronic prescribing has proven to be an effective tool for reducing unlawful and fraudulent prescriptions, tracking and monitoring medication regimens, and reigning in doctor shopping.”
In addition to e-prescribing, NACDS also recommended patient education on drug disposal, prescription drug monitoring programs, pain management and even limiting the first prescription of an opioid to a seven day supply.
These recommendations and strategies will be used to prevent opioid abuse which includes compliance programs, patient education, fostering Naloxone access, stopping illegal online drug sellers and rogue clinics.
Naloxone is readily available in Mineral County to anyone who is willing to stop by the fire station and pick up a kit. A short three question survey will be given to the receiver, but it is not mandatory to fill out.
“I would like anyone who believes that they need one of these kits to stop by. No questions will be asked, “Mineral County Fire Chief Chris Lawrence urged. The kits come in a discreet bag with two doses of the drug, as well as an information sheet and protective equipment. Chief Lawrence explained that he would sit down and give a demonstration on how to administer to anyone willing to learn.
As help for those battling opioid addiction continues to be readily available, it is the hope of the organizations such as those listed above to see a sharp decline in the number of people affected by this epidemic.