County talks strategy for opioid crisis

An innovative, technologically-advanced approach to opioid addiction was the focal point of Monday’s Warren County Commissioners work session.

Tom McKinley with the Verifiable Recovery Network said that their effort “comes out of a desire… to get people off of drugs.”

McKinley explained that one of the major problems with opioid addiction is “getting them through detox. That’s just really hard. These people, they’re addicted. It’s like asking them to stop breathing.”

“One of the things changed over the last few year, The Bridge,” McKinley said, is an “electronic device behind your ear about the size of a hearing aid. When you turn it on, (it) blocks signals from the body (are) telling you (you are) drug sick.”

McKinley said their program includes that piece of technology for five days to get “you through the worst of withdrawal” followed by six months on vivitrol which “blocks opioid receptors” and “keeps you from getting high. (It) helps kill off cravings.”

McKinley said that The Bridge is not covered by insurance yet.

“There is counseling that goes along with this,” he said. “Treating the addict is just part of the problem. The counseling needs are tremendous. If we don’t offer counseling with this, it’s not going to work.”

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin asked what a partnership with the county and the county courts would look like.

McKinley detailed that participation in their program could be a means of keeping people out of jail.

“This isn’t a magic bullet but it helps a lot,” he said. “One of the key items (we) look for…. We need to see someone that has a very strong family member, strong mentor.”

Robert Johnson, presenting with McKinley, said a partnership could include determine cases where the problem is an “addiction problem more than a criminal justice problem” and enter their program “keeping them out of prison. That’s partnership with the county and courts. We think we can help you through that process.”

Commissioner Jeff Eggleston noted that it “should be clear” that they are discussing “non-violent drug addicts. The goal is to… find other tools to treatment (for) people that are treatable.”

Kafferlin said that he is “willing to explore some kind of option” and suggested the issue would be best placed in the hands of the court and probation.

Court Administrator Linda Critzer proposed a joint discussion with the court, probation and the district attorney.

Johnson said that they would help identify funding for such a partnership.