Cincinnati opens a pilot program to get immediate help for people who want help with addiction

Cincinnati has started a pilot program that lets people who are seeking addiction treatment get it by simply walking into one of their six participating health centers, Terry DeMio reports for the Cincinnati Enquirer. The “Safe Places Cincy” pilot was announced on Monday.

“We have a very narrow mission,” Dr. O’dell Owens, president and CEO of Interact for Health, a foundation supporting the program, told DeMio, who has been covering the issue for years. “We are another point of contact (for the addicted) exactly when they need it.”

DeMio reports, “Safe Places Cincy works like this: If you want addiction treatment, go to a Cincinnati health center and ask for it. Once there, a ‘strike force team’ will figure out whether you need hospitalization. If so, they’ll get you to the hospital. If not, they’ll connect with one of three partnering addiction centers: Talbert HouseBrightview Health or the Center for Addiction Treatment, to secure an appointment. After that, they’ll call Uber Health for a ride to the center if it’s open. If not, they’ll get you to a safe place to stay. When the treatment site opens, Uber Health will take you there.”

Cincinnati Health Commissioner Melba Moore told DeMio that this is “a natural” fit for the health centers: “This is a public health issue. This is what we should be doing in our health centers.”

Cincinnati City Council Member Amy Murray, who partnered with health officials and organizations to create the program, told DeMio that it is modeled after one in New Hampshire called Safe Station, which uses fire stations for those who seek addiction treatment.

The Manchester, N.H., fire chief says its program has been in place since May 2016 and has been used as an access point 5,221 times, or roughly five times a day, DeMio reports.

DeMio writes that Cincinnati Fire Department officials weren’t entirely comfortable with spearheading the program, so organizers took a different approach, using the health centers. She adds that Interact for Health provided a $10,000 grant for the Uber Health account.

The advantage to using fire departments is that they are open 24/7, while health centers are only open during the day. But the hope is that after the year-long pilot program is up, Safe Places Cincy will find a partner that is open round-the-clock, DeMio reports. Click here for the health centers’ addresses and contact information.

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