Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $900,000)
Over the past three years, more than 700 people have overdosed in Hamilton County, Tennessee (home to the city of Chattanooga). With funds from our Pilot Project (COSSAP grant, 2018-2021), the Hamilton County Police and Community Overdose Response Team (P-CORT) was able to support treatment and recovery service initiation for 70% of these referred to us for a recent overdose and substance use disorder. These individuals were in urgent need of assistance: participants reported extremely high levels of drug dependence (heroin was the drug of choice for 50% of individuals), 64% were moderately to severely depressed, and 40% reported severe levels of anxiety. Many of our clients were facing dual challenges: trying to treat their substance use disorder while facing criminal charges or doing brief stints in jail.
Our services include treatment referrals, counseling, employment and housing assistance, transportation, family support, and assistance with treatment alternatives to incarceration by partnering with re-entry staff located in the jails, probation staff, and the courts. One year after enrolling in our program, 80% reported no drug use, 64% were employed full time, and 84% had stable housing.
While our results are compelling and speak to the hard work by the P-CORT team, we were unable to provide support for 30% of referrals because individuals who resided in one of the surrounding counties (Marion, Grundy, Rhea, Sequatchie, Bledsoe, Meigs, McMinn, Bradley and Polk County) did not qualify for services through the COSSAP Grant. This regulation led us to turn away 296 people who needed assistance. These people often worked, played, and had family in Hamilton County. Others were temporarily incarcerated in Hamilton County. These individuals continued their illicit substance use, many of them experiencing subsequent overdose incidents.
If this application is approved, the P-CORT Program will continue to provide services to those living in Hamilton County, as well as expand services to include individuals who reside in one of the surrounding counties but use drugs and frequently overdose in Hamilton County.
While there is more work to be done, our results have been very encouraging. If we can expand eligibility of the target population to include individuals who use drugs and overdose in Hamilton County, but officially reside in one of the nine surrounding counties, then we will have a greater impact on reducing substance use disorder and overdose deaths in Southeast Tennessee.