Project FORT (Fairfield County Overdose Response Team) is a collaborative initiative between the Fairfield-Athens Major Crimes Unit and community stakeholders to address the substance use disorder issue facing Fairfield County. The “Pre-arrest diversion quick response team” model is designed to meet with survivors of an unintentional overdose within 24-48 hours of the event and connect that person to available treatment and recovery resources while providing support for their families or other support systems. It is the intended outcome that by connecting individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders with detox, treatment and recovery options in a program outside of the criminal justice system that these individuals could get the help they need and become re-connected with the community. We also provide valuable resources to the families of fatal overdoses who must deal with the loss of a loved one who fell victim to an unintentional overdose. The goal of Project FORT is to reduce the number of unintentional overdoses and to eliminate overdose deaths.
Project FORT became a full-time program in March 2018, however planning Project FORT started in 2016. What started small has grown into an outreach program that is now known throughout the county and throughout the state. The Project FORT team consists of the project Director who is a retired agent from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who now has over 34 years of law enforcement experience. The team also includes one full time Community Paramedic from the Violet Township Fire Department and several full time Paramedics from the City of Lancaster. Lastly, and probably most importantly, Project FORT has two peer supporters on the team. Their role on the team is to provide valuable insight and support to the clients that we work with on a regular basis. Our peer supporters are trained as Certified Drug Counselors, and both are in recovery. It is that aspect that makes their presence on the team so valuable. They can relate to the struggles of addiction and be a positive example of what recovery looks like. The team also has treatment providers who can respond and are available in instances where they are deemed necessary for assessment and placement.
Once the team has met with a client, their individual needs are assessed, and team members begin the process of connecting them to the appropriate in or out patient resources that are available, either within Fairfield County, or outside of Fairfield County, depending on the need. In Fairfield County, we do not have any residential treatment facilities, therefore Project FORT has also established many relationships with providers outside of Fairfield County.
One of the keys to the success of Project FORT program has been the collaboration and partnerships with our community stakeholders. We are extremely proud of the coalitions that we have built over the last two and a half years. The following is a list of some of our partners that actively participate in Project FORT:
Violet Township Fire, Lancaster Fire, Fairfield County ADAMH Board, Fairfield County Commissioners, Fairfield County Prosecutors Office, Fairfield County Courts, Adult Probation, The Recovery Center, New Horizons, Creed of Recovery, Lancaster Recovery Services, Fairfield Medical Center, Diley Ridge Mt. Carmel Medical, Fairfield County Health Department, Fairfield Community Health, Ohio Guidestone, Care Source, Fairfield County Mental Health Consumer Group, Sun Behavioral, Ohio National Guard Counter Drug Program, Ohio HIDTA, DEA, Fairfield County 211, Fairfield County Department of Jobs and Family Services, City of Lancaster, Ohio Attorney Generals’ Office, Ohio Department of Public Safety, Faith based groups, and community members. We have also received invaluable support from the offices of Congressman Steve Stivers and Senator Rob Portman. These groups have all committed either financial, human resources, material and other forms of support in furtherance of Project FORT.
Another key component to Project FORT is real time information sharing. HIDTA provides support with ODMaps, which provides real time overdose data to those in the field, who can interpret, map and share the overdose data with our partners. Real time data collection is critical for so many different reasons. This data may identify spikes in overdose activity, and provides mapping capabilities for those in the field that work to prevent further overdoses from occurring. The data is also crucial for funding purposes. Project FORT works almost exclusively from grant dollars, and having the ability to accurately collect, review and share that data is very important to our success. In 2019, Project FORT also started utilizing a QRT software provided by CORDATA, that collects data about our clients and stores the data in a way that allows us to have easy access to our client records.
Project FORT is mostly funded from state and federal grant dollars, with some assistance from the Fairfield County Commissioners Office. Grants provided by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Office of Criminal Justice Services, Ohio Hidta, and DEA have all contributed to the success of Project FORT. These dollars go to pay salaries, provide recovery support for those in treatment, pay for housing for those that are living in a sober living environment, provide Narcan to our community members and families of those who have loved ones with substance abuse issues, as well as provide resource materials to our community members. It is the hope of all those involved that through this progressive approach we will not only change the course of the lives of people suffering from the disease of addiction, but reduce the number of unintentional overdoses, provide support for their families, lessen the burden on the criminal justice system, change the stigmas associated with addiction, and ultimately save lives.
Scott Duff, Project FORT Director