Monongalia Co. QRT recognized by U.S. Attorney
Jan. 10, 2023
Contact: MaryWade Burnside
Public Information Officer
Monongalia County Health Department
Morgantown, WV 26505 (304) 598-5152 | www.monchd.org MaryWade.Burnside@wv.gov
For Immediate Release
MORGANTOWN, WV (Jan. 10, 2023) — The Monongalia County Quick Response Team (QRT) was one of 11 individuals or groups recognized in December by William Ihlenfeld, United States Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia.
The QRT, made up of public health, peer recovery specialists, law enforcement, social work agencies, faith-based organizations and other groups, received an award for Outstanding Community Drug Prevention in a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Clarksburg on Dec. 12.
“This dynamic group of individuals and multiple organizations from across (Monongalia County) and beyond has changed the opioid epidemic response in the county, across the state and across the country,” U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II said in a statement following the ceremony.
“This team is in year four, having saved hundreds of lives, helping people who have suffered an overdose find treatment.”
The Monongalia County QRT is funded by grants from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), obtained by Monongalia County Health Department. Members began meeting weekly in April 2019.
While the pandemic brought on increased misuse of opioids, alcohol and other substances, it also helped expand the QRT because online meetings allowed more individuals to participate, not only locally but also regionally.
QRT members have made presentations at several events, including virtually at the Rx and Illicit Drug Summit in Atlanta in 2021 and at the West Virginia Fentanyl Symposium, held in Morgantown last March.
Even before the pandemic began, the QRT began mentoring other groups, including one organized by Madison County Health Department in Richmond, Kentucky, as well as several groups in West Virginia.
“They’ve trained multiple agencies from across the state and country to help them set up their own version of the QRT to help save lives,” Ihlenfeld said.
The QRT operates by meeting weekly to discuss overdoses of opioids and other substances, as gleaned from police and 911 reports submitted to a privacy-protected Dropbox account.
Once those reports are received, peer recovery coaches (PRCs) reach out to individuals who have overdosed within 24-72 hours to try to connect them to counseling and other services.
“We fashioned our model using peer recovery coaches as the initial point of contact for those individuals and families impacted with substance use disorder,” said Dr. Lee B. Smith, MCHD’s county health officer. “This has proved to be a highly successful model and one that has garnered local, regional, state and national publicity.
“Another core principle has been to bring multiple groups and agencies together, focusing on making a positive impact on this terrible problem,” Dr. Smith continued. “We are always looking for the added value of combining efforts in tackling this complex issue.”
During a recent presentation to the Monongalia County Commission, QRT members provided statistics that illustrate the group’s successes. In the QRT’s nearly four years of operation, peer recovery coaches have had 13,309 interactions with individuals who overdosed and have provided 1,399 referrals to hospitals, treatment facilities and QRT members. Forty-seven percent of the individuals have been connected to treatment.
And through occasions such as Free Naloxone Day, vaccine clinics and other events, QRT members have distributed 10,500 doses of naloxone, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, and trained 4,300 individuals on how to use naloxone.
Brittany Irick, the Monongalia County QRT coordinator, was pleased to be on hand to accept the award with other members.
“I felt it was a very good accomplishment for the QRT to be recognized for our efforts that we’ve made for the past few years,” she said. “It felt good to be recognized among the other people who were there. These were stories I wasn’t aware of and I enjoyed learning about them and seeing these people recognized for their hard work.”
Other award categories were Outstanding Financial Crime Investigation, Outstanding Investigation Effort, Outstanding Firearms Investigation, Outstanding National Security Investigation, Outstanding Firearms Conspiracy Investigation, Outstanding Drug Investigation, Outstanding Financial Fraud Investigation, Outstanding Violent Crime Investigation, Outstanding Drug Task Force and Outstanding Youth Advocate.
To learn more about the honorees, go to justice.gov/usao-ndwv/pr/law-enforcement-public-servants-honored-us-attorney.
U.S. Attorneys have historically honored “exceptionalism” in law enforcement, and in recent years, this recognition has been broadened to include outstanding community service, Ihlenfeld said.
Said Smith: “We are thrilled to be recognized by the U.S. Attorney’s office, as this is a very prestigious award. We will continue to focus on improving our efforts and data collections to measure the impact as we move forward. Substance use disorders are far from being over and we need to continue our efforts in providing education, treatment, testing and prevention.”
For up-to-date information on health and wellness in Monongalia County, check out monchd.org and follow the health department on Facebook and Twitter @WVMCHD and on Instagram at #wvmchd.