The Wasco County commission approved receipt of a grant to provide training in addiction intervention and treatment during their regular board meeting Dec. 2.

The first-year grant of over $90,000 will fund training and evaluation work in addiction service provided by NORC, a non-partisan and objective research organization at the University of Chicago. Wasco County contracted for a $60,000 portion of the grant.

The program is funded by federal and state overdose prevention grants, said Debby Jones of YouthThink, who is managing the grant, which was awarded to the North Central Public Health District.

The grant is focused on providing training those working in addiction services, and the first step will be to make a plan for the county. “This is a prevention tool, and focuses on getting people treatment sooner and more effectively,” said Jones. “The first part is training, to be able to do a county-wide assessment to see who is interested in this.”

YouthThink and Wasco County Parole and Probation will be working with Bridges to Change in The Dalles, which provides mentor programs and transitional housing in the county. The grant was awarded to the North Central Public Health District, which serves Wasco, Sherman and Gilliam counties. All three counties will be served by the grant.

The grant will focus on providing training for community leaders as well as law enforcement and the regional jail personnel — and training can be customized for specific groups. “They (NORC) are the experts, and we will be making sure this works for everyone who wants to be involved,” Jones said.

The program will include SBIRT (Integrated Adolescent Substance Abuse Screening, Brief Intervention and Treatment) training, developed through social work and nursing school education. It is competency-based simulation training guidance, Jones explained. The training is for adults.

Jones said there was a “good possibility” additional funds would be available for an additional year

Fritz Bachman, Wasco County community corrections director, said the county has been working with Bridges to Change for some time and found the program effective. “We use Bridges to Change very heavily for peer mentor services,” he said. “It helps us connect with NORCOR, and is helping people with opioid addiction as they are getting out of NORCOR. They do the ‘warm handoff’ — the first days out (of NORCOR) are some of the most vulnerable.” The program gives those being released from jail “a safe place to be, and they are helping them get to their first appointments, and connecting them with resources they might not know about.”

Jones also told the commissioners that she appreciated the way agencies in Wasco County were responding to the many issues raised by the pandemic. “Here in Wasco County, we are dealing with the pandemic and still getting the work done,” she said of local program leaders. “A lot of my peers around the state don’t have that support, for them COVID-19 is feeling like an excuse to not provide the services we are contracted to provide.”

The board unanimously approved a trio of agreements and memorandum needed to set the project in motion.

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