Howard County SOC to open soon, offer access to addiction services

The Howard County Systems of Care (SOC) now has a name, an opening day and a location.

County Commissioner Paul Wyman announced the details at a public meeting Thursday evening, as well as updates to a bevy of goals SOC has pursued since its initial unveiling in November.

Systems of Care

Indiana Executive Director for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement Jim McClelland gives a brief address during an update on Howard County’s System of Care, expressing confidence in the work that is being done to combat the opioid epidemic in Howard County. Cody Neuenschwander | Kokomo Tribune

Work on Howard County’s SOC began last year as a response to a drug crisis that claimed 44 lives to overdoses in 2017. It’s a collaborative effort of public officials, law enforcement, education and medical officials and a long list of others.

Turning Point, Howard County’s SOC, will open April 30 in an office at the Family Service Association located at 618 S. Main St.

On a state-wide level, SOC is a framework designed to provide mental health and education to vulnerable residents. Individual communities may choose to take on the model, opening them up to chances for state grant dollars. The state model is relatively broad, allowing communities room for customization to combat their local drug crises in the way officials see fit.

Jim McClelland, who was appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb to serve as the state’s executive director for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement, spoke at Thursday’s meeting, and expressed confidence in what he saw happening in Howard County. The county’s  SOC, he said, is among the most developed he’s seen in communities that have adopted the model.

McClelland’s words put a lot of faith in the efforts of communities implementing their own SOC, even saying such efforts could spell out an end to the opioid crisis.

“As we see more Systems of Care established throughout Indiana, as we gain experience, as we become increasingly effective at what we’re doing, we will end this opioid crisis and we will do it in far less time than it took to create it,” McClelland said.

Currently, Wyman said, Turning Point has amassed $130,000 through grants and private sector donations – the latter making up $30,000 of the dollars obtained. Further grant seeking will continue to be a priority, he added, as subcommittees work to attack the drug crisis on multiple fronts.

Another announcement Thursday was the hiring of Sherry Rahl as the Turning Point Navigator – the person who will directly meeting with addicts and their families and subsequently find them the care they need. Rahl has served as director of Project Access, a free service in Howard County that helps clients navigate the complexities of the healthcare system. Rahl will give up her role at Project Access upon Turning Point’s opening.

Rahl, in an interview with the Tribune, said her role gives her access to a relatively comprehensive list of addiction and mental health resources in the area. Those resources have been put into an easy-to-use software she can access, and essentially allows the Turning Point office to be a one-stop-shop in finding someone treatment, Rahl said. Her position is designed to alleviate the complexities of finding, contacting and connecting with addiction or mental health services.

That role is sure to put Rahl in contact with people who are either uninsured or underinsured, posing another obstacle in finding that person the help they need.

“I’m a licensed health navigator, so now we’re going to navigate on the insurance issue,” said Rahl, who said she’ll work with the person’s provider to find what options are on the table, and what can be done to get the help the person needs.

Additionally, the navigator position will work with the families of the person to ensure every member of an addict’s family has access to resources they may need as a direct result of their loved one’s addiction.

Another part of her position will be to conduct follow-up meetings and phone calls, to ensure everyone she’s helped is doing OK.

While she’s currently the only person employed for this position, Rahl said she has an “army of volunteers” with experience in this type of work, and she can imagine the program growing in the future.

Other work being done with Turning Point include a comprehensive faith-based program for area pastors to implement in their churches. An upcoming meeting with area pastors will present to them ways to help anyone in their congregation that needs addiction services.

Additionally, before school starts in Aug. 2019, Wyman said SOC officials hope to have rolled out an effective anti-drug program in area schools, saying the program is being worked on in conjunction with law enforcement and school officials.

An awareness campaign is set to garner Turning Point more public recognition, along with services they can provide. An anti-stigma campaign is also in the works, including videos being worked on by County Coroner Seele and IUK staff, to encourage people suffering from addiction to be undeterred by any existing stigma and seek help.

A “take back drug” event is planned for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 28, said Wyman, at the Indiana Surgery Center at the Community Howard Regional Health main campus, where any extra medication can be dropped off and safely taken care of. Wyman said these events will be another future feature of Turning Point.

Wyman said SOC continues to work on still other initiatives in cooperation with other local and private entities.