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BRIDGE Day celebrates partnerships between first responders and mental health advocates

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Story by Meredith Stutz WLWT News 5 Jul 19, 2023

Partnerships center on the practice of deflection, steering people in active addiction towards treatment and recovery and away from future overdoses, harm and jail time.

UNION TOWNSHIP, Ohio — For those battling substance abuse and addiction, one key towards recovery is found in not fighting alone. In essence, there is power in building bridges.

Wednesday across the United States is known as BRIDGE Day. This multi-state, multi-agency effort works to raise awareness about needed partnerships between law enforcement, mental health organizations and those working towards active recovery.

BRIDGE stands for Bridging Recovery Interdiction Data Gathering Enforcement. For the state of Ohio, the goal of the day is to reinforce partnerships, refer people to treatment and next-step healthy resources towards recovery and provide updated related data to participating partners.

All 88 counties in Ohio are participating in BRIDGE Day with a special focus on Quick Response Teams, which combine law enforcement and mental health professionals to respond to crises and cases involving potential substance abuse. Clermont County told WLWT its QRT was the first in the state to use peer coaches. These individuals are in active recovery and use their similar shared previous experiences to better reach, educate and encourage people in active addiction toward recovery.

Previously, between 2010-2013, Clermont County led the nation in per 100,000 heroin-related deaths, according to Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board. Advocates and first responders knew they needed to create an avenue for helping those who survived an overdose but still needed treatment and struggled to find an open spot. The vision to bridge this gap led to the create of its QRT in 2017. Since then, Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board Executive Director Lee Ann Watson estimated 50 percent of people who are engaged through the QRT collaborative process do receive treatment.

BRIDGE Day also highlights the use of deflection as a preferred method of interaction with intervention teams and those looking for help.

Lee Ann Watson defining the intentional method as, "Deflecting people away from the criminal justice system and into the behavioral health or the treatment system. So what's helpful about that is, you know, when people get wrapped up in the criminal justice system, they get charges which can impact their life," Watson said. "So it just makes their situation worse. So, you know, the important part is to try to I mean, it's not a crime, right, to have an addiction. And so they really need to be in treatment to get help, to get better."

Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services connected WLWT with a specific QRT team in Clermont County. The pair is made up of a peer coach named Kristy Mudd and Union Township Firefighter Paramedic Scott Musselman. Mudd was in active addiction for nearly 25 years. She told WLWT she is now nearly 10 years sober and has been a peer coach for seven years. Musselman told WLWT he wanted to be part of a QRT due to his own hardships with family and friends stuck in addiction.

Several times a week, the pair obtains a list of people who have been identified as dealing with addiction, potentially through reported overdoses or potential substance abuse. These individuals have signed a consent form asking for follow-up help. Kristy Mudd and Scott Musselman team up to visit people at their listed place of residence. They offer to have open and transparent conversations, offer resources for treatment and accountability and next-steps for follow-up visits.

Kristy Mudd says being a peer coach gives her purpose and well as a teacher to first responders to better understand the daily realities of addiction and recovery. "We're also able to show first responders here in Clermont County that recovery is possible. They're seeing a whole other side of folks that they never got to see before. If no one were to give me a second chance, I wouldn't be standing here today. And so, I'd like to take that and share that with folk," Kristy Mudd said. "I'm living proof. It's possible."

To learn more about available resources for those dealing with substance abuse and addiction in Clermont County, click here.

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