Program graduates say drug crisis team is saving lives

Allen Thomas, 57, recalls when Columbus first responders saved his life in June from a drug overdose in a hotel — and then again days later.

“If it wasn’t for them, I’d be dead,” Thomas said. “And it’s a shame because there’s people out there now, passing away from this epidemic.”

Thomas was among the dozens of members of the recovery community and Columbus first responders gathered at Columbus Firefighters Union Local 67 in Franklinton for a “friendsgiving” last Wednesday, where graduates shared a holiday meal and their stories of how a city program has offered substance abusers way out.

Tara Hoover, 33, of Chillicothe, said first responders used to scare her during the peak of her addiction.

“It’s really weird coming from having firefighters and police and EMT, people that I was scared of, being the ones that helped me out.”

Tara Hoover, 31, shared her story about how the Columbus RREACT team supported her through her journey with substance abuse recovery.

Thomas and Allen were assisted in their recovery process by RREACT (Rapid Response Emergency Addiction Crisis Team), which seeks to engage with people suffering from substance abuse. Since 2018, teams of paramedics, police and case managers have gone door to door providing follow-up services for opiate overdose patients.

Columbus Fire Lt. Isaac Tolliver, supervisor for the RREACT program, said the friendsgiving event is a way to recognize the effort the “graduates” of the program have put into bettering their lives.

“It’s a good chance for us to give back,” Tolliver said.

The meal was prepared by members of the Columbus Division of Fire (Tolliver has a background in the culinary arts) and included many of the traditional Thanksgiving favorites — turkey, macaroni and cheese and sweet potato with marshmallows.

Earlier this month, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther proposed expanding funding for the RREACT program during the annual budget process, as well as other initiatives aimed at addressing public safety issues.

ReadMore: ‘Unified approach’ needed to combat substance abuse, overdoses, panelists say

Thomas, who has six children and 13 grandchildren, said RREACT members have been with him every step of the way during recovery. He said the support provided “has been unbelievable.”

Because of their attention, Thomas said he was able to get replacement documentation and even a full-time job as a crane operator for Rogue Fitness.

“It feels good, it really does,” said Thomas, who lives in the Hilltop.

Hoover said RREACT team members have been there for her even during her lows, such as when she wound up in Franklin County Jail after a relapse.

“There were about 15 RREACT members there to speak to the judge on my behalf,” Hoover said. “And that was an experience I never had. I’ve never had nobody stand up for me.

“They’re the only reason I’m still alive today.”

Tolliver said a key to success for helping people is simply being there for people who need help.

“A lot of the time we’re at the door with a complete stranger just to let them know that we care,” Tolliver said. “It really resonates with them, and they think, ‘Okay, this guy who doesn’t know me, he’s trying to give me some help. Maybe there’s a way out.’”

@Colebehr_report

Cbehrens@dispatch.com

Source: https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMieGh0dHBzOi8vd3d3LmRpc3BhdGNoLmNvbS9zdG9yeS9uZXdzL2xvY2FsLzIwMjIvMTEvMjEvcHJvZ3JhbS1ncmFkdWF0ZXMtc2F5LWRydWctY3Jpc2lzLXRlYW0taXMtc2F2aW5nLWxpdmVzLzY5NjU5MjYzMDA3L9IBAA?oc=5

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