Drug Education and Services In Slavic Village

By Mark Silverberg

Slavic Village residents turned out for a valuable community health event at the new Southeast Resource Center on Nov. 9th. Four organizations cooperated to provide free drug education, Narcan and naloxone kits, fentanyl testing strips, and train residents on how to respond to drug overdose situations. The response of residents was enthusiastic and appreciative.

The four organizations and their areas of focus are:

Thrive for Change is a Cleveland-based nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating overdose fatalities and other harms associated with substance use. Each week its team conducts outreach and naloxone (overdose reversal drug) distribution in underserved overdose hot-spot communities. Over the last two years, Thrive for Change has trained over 4,000 people on overdose response, equipped the community with 10,000 naloxone kits, and prevented an estimated 400 overdose fatalities. In addition to its in-person outreach, it also operates a mail-order naloxone program where anyone in Ohio can submit a request to receive a free naloxone kit delivered straight to their door. If people would like to get a kit for themselves, learn more, donate, or volunteer they can learn how by visiting thrive4change.org, stopping by 29201 Aurora Rd, Suite 400, Solon, OH 44139, calling 1-877-636-3777 extension 761, or emailing broebuck@thrive4change.org

The SOAR Initiative (Safety, Outreach, Autonomy, Respect) is a Columbus-based organization started by students at The Ohio State University.  It works for harm reduction, tries to give voice to People With Substance Use Disorder (PWUD), and meets people where they are to offer support. SOAR provides a state-wide, mail-order fentanyl test strip program, safe-use supplies, and a SOAR app. This app allows people to anonymously report suspicious contaminated drugs, gives real-time text alerts on contaminated drugs in an area, and finds local resources. App users have confidence their identities won’t be disclosed which allows SOAR to receive more information from residents, get more information out to the affected communities and save lives. Jessica Collier of SOAR said: “One of the things I, as a person with PWUD, admire about SOAR is they uplift and amplify the voices of people’s lived experience, as we are the experts. This organization values our time, voices, and ideas. It gives us the opportunity to use our experience to provide input to bring about the changes we know are needed, to help folks have their basic needs met and be treated with respect.” For more information download the SOAR app, send mail to PO Box 3420, Columbus, OH 43210, or call 419-670-7627.

Project White Butterfly’s (PWB) vision is a world that takes responsibility for supporting recovery from substance use disorder. Its mission is to reduce harm, promote recovery, and encourage healing from substance use disorder by sharing messages of hope, cultivating a supportive community, and providing connections to resources. It operates on the values of empathy, love, encouragement, joy, and collaboration.

Sara Szelagowski, its founder, said “Though many detox and substance use disorder treatment centers exist in our community, many people actively using drugs do not know how to connect with these services to reduce harm and provide support on their journey towards recovery. Even if people are aware of the available services, they often feel ashamed and hesitant to reach out for help due to fear of judgment and discouragement from prior attempts to utilize resources.”

By allowing easy access to its programs, understanding the lifestyles of those in active use, and taking a neutral and personal approach, Project White Butterfly aims to connect individuals by meeting people where they are on their journey, both geographically and mentally. PWB meets people on the streets of their communities to provide tools and support, share information for services, and help them feel safe to share their unique stories. PWB aims to serve all persons who struggle with substance use disorder regardless of race and ethnicity, class, sexual or gender orientation.

PWB has developed two creative programs worthy of note. The first is a walk-through gallery called “Dispelling Stigma,” which presents statistics, science, and real-life stories of people with substance use disorder (SUD) for display at libraries, the Cuyahoga County Justice Center, high schools, and YMCA locations. The second is a Community Safe Space Meeting that addresses the ripple effect that substance use has on the lives of the people around the user.  At these meetings, people can find strength, comfort, and tools, and know they are not alone on their journeys of loving—and wanting to help—people who use drugs. For more information contact PWB at 7452 Broadview Road, Suite #148, Parma, OH 44134, phone 216-727-8725, or email support@projectwhitebutterfly.org.

Community Medical Services is a Medication Assisted Treatment provider that believes in offering treatment with medication, harm reduction, and behavioral health support. CMS is committed to breaking down the barriers to treatment, meeting all persons where they are, eliminating the negative consequences of drug use, and providing quality medical care and treatment to those suffering from an opioid use disorder. They have six (soon seven) clinics in Ohio and dozens of others throughout the United States. Their two local offices are at 2020 Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland and 7 Severance Circle in Cleveland Heights. CMS strives to provide the highest level of care and accepts walk-in assessments and services to start the journey to recovery. Contact: communitymedicalservices.org, or call 216-859-9500.

All of these organizations offer much-needed services to our community, each with a particular focus. This event at the Southeast Resource Center was a great example of how service organizations can work together to benefit our residents in areas of great need in our community. Contact them to host an event at your organization!