PLYMOUTH -- The Plymouth County Outreach Advisory Board members and Police Chiefs would like to provide the following message relating to the recently-released 2020 Plymouth County Outreach Annual Report.
"Twenty-twenty has been a year like no other. Plymouth County Outreach started the year with many goals, aspirations, and plans. While we may not have accomplished all of these goals due to the global pandemic, together we accomplished more than we could've ever imagined. Due to the pandemic, we had to halt in-person follow up visits with a day’s notice. Within a week of the shutdown, our Recovery Coaches were conducting follow ups by phone and our officers were arranging contactless drop off/pick up of resource packets and harm reduction tools. Although we couldn't be together in person, we made it work. We continued to work together as a team to provide all the assistance we could to those living with substance use disorders and their loved ones. Because of our harm reduction and no stigma philosophy, combined with our superb outreach team, many people entered treatment and received support and countless lives were saved.
In 2019, PCO was selected by the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance to become a national mentor for their Law Enforcement/First Responder Diversion Mentor program. In 2020, PCO conducted their first virtual mentor site visit with the New Castle County Police Department in Delaware and was able to provide them valuable insight into our program and other key community programs in Plymouth County. In October of 2020 and in recognition of past successful execution and our forward looking strategic plans, PCO was awarded the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, Substance Abuse Site-Based Program that provides funding for PCO through September 2023. This is our second round of funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the first round of funding being awarded in October 2018.
In addition to current operations, PCO proposed to expand the program in the following ways:
- Creating and distributing harm reduction kits to members of the community that include Naloxone, fentanyl test strips, wound care supplies, condoms and other items that reduce the harm of substance use and aim to keep individuals alive until they are ready to seek Recovery.
- Identifying overdose “hot spots” throughout the county using our real-time data and point and heat maps created by our partners at Kelley Research Associates. Conduct targeted hot spot outreach starting with the five hardest hit communities in Plymouth County (Brockton, Plymouth, Wareham, Middleborough, and Rockland) and eventually throughout the entire county.
- Hiring a full-time Recovery Coach to work with the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department to provide resources and support to individuals recently released from or currently incarcerated and living with substance use disorder. This Recovery Coach will be able to conduct regular follow up post-incarceration and address social determinants of health.
In addition, PCO will continue working to provide resources and support to individuals living with substance use disorder and their loved ones with an overall goal of reducing overdose deaths throughout the county.
PCO is an outcome-driven organization. Data is the “fuel” that drives these positive outcomes. Using the strong database that it has worked on with its research partner, Kelley Research Associates, PCO leverages its Advisory Board and stakeholders to continually assess what works, what efforts can be further optimized, and where their finite resources can make the biggest impact within the complex rubric of substance use, mental health, and socioeconomic variables. The data will continue to evolve as the battle lines of this war dynamically shift.
For example, the barriers created by the pandemic in 2020 have sadly resulted in a 18% increase (e.g. from 134 in 2019 to 158 in 2020) in fatal events in Plymouth County as compared to 2019, requiring PCO to adapt its strategy. For the safety of our outreach teams, PCO halted all in person follow-ups for almost four months due to the pandemic. During this time, PCO conducted follow-ups by phone, began hosting weekly Recovery Coach “office hours,” started a new virtual recovery group, and had Recovery Coaches on call seven days a week in an effort to combat the negative effects of social isolation. Due to these efforts, PCO was able to maintain a 58% (595) successful contact rate in 2020, only slightly down from the 61% (514) success rate in 2019. Of the visits where PCO was able to make contact with the individual who overdosed, the individual accepted services 75% of the time, a significant 20% increase over 2019. This increase demonstrates our ability to continue to learn and adjust as the environment evolves.
Similar corroborating but lagging data is published by the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC), a summary of which is the following:
• In 2019, there were 70,630 drug overdose deaths in the United States, an increase from 2018 (67,367 deaths).
• The age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths increased by over 4% from 2018 (20.7 per 100,000) to 2019 (21.6 per 100,000).
• Synthetic opioid-involved death rates increased by over 15% from 2018 to 2019 and accounted for nearly 73% of all opioid-involved deaths in 2019.
• Psychostimulant Overdose Deaths increased by 37% in 2017
• Nearly 85% of overdose deaths involved illicitly manufactured fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine (alone or in combination) during January–June 2019
• Nearly three-quarters (72.7%) of cocaine-involved overdose deaths also involved an opioid in 2017
Harm reduction practices proved to be especially critical during the global pandemic when social isolation made it difficult to maintain recovery. In 2020, Naloxone was administered by a 3rd party (e.g. a bystander, friend, or family member) during an overdose event in 29% (241) of incidents involving Naloxone. This is a 19% increase from 2019, where Naloxone was administered by a 3rd party in 25% (203) of the incidents involving Naloxone. We equate this increase to our Recovery Coaches and community partners continuing to distribute Naloxone and other harm reduction tools to members of the community as well as working to address the stigmas of substance use disorder.
In 2020, PCO saw a 14% increase in at-risk referrals throughout the county (e.g. from 175 in 2019 to 199 in 2020). This is a positive increase, as it shows individuals proactively seeking assistance before an overdose occurs. PCO has seen steady increases in at-risk referrals each year with an overall increase of 148% (e.g. 80 in 2017 to 199 in 2020) since 2017.
PCO was designed to adapt quickly and excel in keeping our focus on the needs of those Plymouth County residents living with substance use disorders. Using our takeaways from last year, PCO will move forward into 2021 with action items specific to the challenges faced in 2020.
2021 PCO Focus Action Items
- Conduct targeted, data driven, hot spot outreach throughout the county starting with the five hardest hit communities (Brockton, Plymouth, Wareham, Middleborough, and Rockland) and eventually the entire county.
- Continue to increase access to Naloxone and other harm reduction tools through outreach teams by distributing harm reduction kits to members of the community.
- Continue to spread education and awareness about the importance of harm reduction and reduce the stigma and negative perceptions associated with utilizing harm reduction tools.
- Distribute homeless improvement kits to Plymouth County individuals experiencing homelessness in an effort to remove some of the barriers they are facing.
- Partner with the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department to provide resources and support to individuals recently released from or currently in incarceration living with substance use disorder.
- Continue to work with our highest risk population through the Tier 2 initiatives, which aim to assist individuals who have overdosed twice in a month period, or 3 or more times in a six month period.
In summary, Plymouth County Outreach remains committed to the collaborative work of saving lives impacted by substance use disorder across the spectrum of behavioral health disorders. We thank you for your past and continued support and look forward to working with all of you in the complex and meaningful work ahead."