Access to services can be a common complaint of marginalized groups, and their grievances sometimes require legal action to bring about change. There are situations, however, that cannot wait and require an innovative approach to resolve an ongoing problem.
When it came to accessing care for people with substance use disorders in Surry County, a major barrier was getting patients to the care they needed. A transportation initiative was launched in May that was funded by the county along with grants called “Ride the Road to Recovery”. The funding allowed the team to hire staff and purchase vehicles to use to get patients to their treatment.
“A lot of patients with substance use disorders don’t have adequate transportation to get to the treatment which is mostly in the towns of Surry County, so we’ll be providing that to them,” said Nathan Walls. from the county director’s office.
The number of travel requests since the inception of the program has already increased at a rate that shows how necessary and appreciated this transportation service is that it can move forward. The county report said, “Requests have increased from 31 in June to 122 in October, increasing every month.
“Between July and August, the numbers almost doubled, from 41 to 79. From May, movements went from 13 to 55 in June, to 129 in July, to 145 in August, to 195 in September and to 256 in October. This represents an overall increase of over 1,869% in ridership.
This growth means that this program needs help in the form of volunteer drivers. A new volunteer driver program called TIRES (Together Ideal Results Emerge Successfully) is looking for volunteers who will drive program vehicles and transport residents to needed services.
This new approach to getting patients to the care they need using volunteer drivers can be cutting edge. It is believed to be the only such program in North Carolina without any other documentation in the state of “other local governments primarily providing transportation services to drug addicted patients.”
Getting those who need it to treatment is only part of the goal of Ride the Road to Recovery. Beyond these important journeys to treatment, “they also go to medical appointments, probation, court, TASC, vocational rehabilitation and NC Works because they have no other way. to get there, ”said Mark Willis, director of the county’s addiction recovery department. .
“If we’re really helping people get back on the road to recovery, the only way to do that is to connect county residents with their other needs as well. With this big picture of recovery and our marketing efforts, we’ve seen an increase in the number of runners. “
The TIRES initiative has just been launched and, as Transportation Coordinator Deborah Giep said, it gives residents of Surry County a chance to connect and help their neighbors in need.
COVID-19 fears, she said, could play a role in concerns people might have to participate, but the county is helping with these personal safety supplies for riders and drivers. “We provide safety equipment; each runner receives a mask if he does not have one.
Earlier this year, the Surry County Office for Addiction Recovery asked the public to participate in a survey of their experiences and perceptions of substance use disorders and those who struggle with the disease. . Seven hundred and thirty VOICES (Voluntary Opinions and Information Regarding Community Surveys on the Elimination of Substance Use) were collected from February 8 to April 14. With participation from all demographic groups and over 200 additional written responses from the public, she provided insight into this community’s understanding and perceptions of the issue.
What was found from those 730 surveys is that there is a broad knowledge of an ongoing substance use problem in this area, and an equally alarming number of participants said it was easy to find drugs in their community.
Out of 677 responses to the question “Do you know a local family that has been negatively affected by opioid use?” 588 said yes, they know such a family, which represents 87% of respondents.
“Do you think your community has an opioid addiction problem? »97.8% answered yes.
When asked if “illicit opioids, including illicit prescription drugs and drugs like heroin, are readily available in my community,” 94.1% responded that they thought they were easy to find. find.
A data point shows that public perception of substance use disorders has changed over the years. The interviewed community was offered options on the root cause of substance use disorders: choice, low morality, or illness. Residents of Surry County recognize what healthcare professionals agree on: These people are struggling with illness.
Pastor Michelle Mathis said in a video found on SurryCountyCares.com that for some people who view substance use disorders as a moral failure, she wants to remind them, “None of us are sinless. Jesus even said, he who is without sin will cast the first stone. She remembers a phrase she borrowed from a pastor in Ohio, do you want to be a rock thrower – or do you want to go down like he did and help?
Drug addiction is a chronic and debilitating disease from which some people will not recover despite their best efforts. This does not mean that all efforts will not be made. Helping neighbors in need and leading them to treatment that can help change the course of their lives can be a game-changing experience for the sufferer and those close to them.
For every dollar spent on prevention, $ 10 is saved on long-term treatment costs alone, according to the Surry County Substance Abuse website. Bringing someone to a facility like Daymark for treatment can prevent a host of other problems associated with withdrawal. One less person looking for an unlocked car door at the gas station would also be of net benefit to the community as a whole.
“They see the light,” Giep said of On the Road to Recovery participants, “(They) want to continue on the road and the journey and are eager to complete their programs.”
The programs exist, the subsidy is in place for vehicles and county staff to facilitate the carpooling program. What is needed now are the drivers, and the community is invited to help.
To request a ride through the transportation program or become a volunteer driver, residents should contact Deborah Giep at 336-401-8266 or send a message to www.surrycountycares.com/transportation.