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Update on The West Side Heroin/Opioid Task Force

At its core, the West Side Heroin/Opioid Task Force is a collaborative endeavor. The scale of the opioid overdose crisis demands that community partners from across the continuum of care bring their specialized expertise and unique perspectives to the work. In this update, we will highlight just a few of the many examples where this is happening.

Left to Right: Outreach Worker Edgar Richardson, Family Guidance Recovery Specialist Michael Ferguson and Robert Smith from Lighthouse.

Warm Hand-offs:

Warm-handoffs mean finding the most timely and appropriate ways to support persons who are seeking support for their substance use disorder or any number of challenges they are experiencing. The

Task Force Outreach Team, led by Director Luther Syas has been instrumental in bringing together substance use providers to improve the referral process from street to medical stabilization or Medicine-Assisted Recovery, medical or behavioral health issues. Here are just a couple of those warm-handoff partnerships:

Family Guidance Centers (FGC) - MAR Van:

For the past year FGC has partnered with the Outreach Team by bringing their MAR van to outreach locations twice a week. On those days, individuals seeking to discontinue their drug use can immediately begin treatment on site. Medication-assisted treatment, also known as Medication-assisted Recovery, (MAR), combines medication with therapy to provide a whole-person approach to opioid addiction treatment. Family Guidance Centers offers MAR using all three federally-approved medications for opiate use disorder, which are methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone), and injectable naltrexone (Vivitrol). Over 40 individuals per month chose to use these services when out with the outreach team.

Care Vans - Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH):

In January, CDPH expanded its Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) program to launch its Opioid Response Team. This is the first CARE team designed to address substance use and overdose emergencies in Chicago neighborhoods with the most opioid-related 911 calls. Through this program, Chicagoans will now be connected with ongoing substance use care and will receive harm reduction resources. The team will also offer follow-up support in the days after an overdose. The Outreach Team met the van on their first trial run (pictured right). The partnership will continue through periodic visits to outreach “hot spots” to provide referrals for OUD and mental health services.

Left to right: Outreach Team Members Edgar Richardson, Keith Davis, Gail Richardson and Roger Stiff with CDPH Care Van staff.


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