HENDERSON COUNTY, Texas — Amid an opioid crisis, researchers say Henderson County has taken major steps toward a healthier community in the past six months.
Mindy Robertson, data coordinator for the East Texas Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, said many remedies were hidden in plain view.
“The Surgeon General one time I heard him say, ‘the opioid crisis came in and everybody was mopping up everything, they're just trying to mop up, mop up, and it didn't seem like they could get it cleaner or fix it," Robertson said. "It's because nobody went over and turned off the faucet.’”
Turning off the faucet began by assigning two full-time recovery coaches to Athens and raising awareness in the community through public events.
A $1 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) catapulted this effort.
"We can make steps towards bear environments and what we're looking for in communities, and whether those communities or counties or towns,“ Robertson said.
Jails are included as well.
Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse says his team has partnered with Project Hope, a nonprofit, to address this crisis from all angles.
“Most of our people that are incarcerated are, unfortunately have some types of substance abuse," Hillhouse said.
The nonprofit holds trainings and gives first responders Narcan to be able to react quickly if they come across an overdose.
Hillhouse says there’s still work to be done though, namely with heroin use.
"What we normally see is that they get basically addicted to some prescription pills, and then they, they can't get pills any longer," Hillhouse said. "And a lot of times they turn to heroin. So we are seeing in recovering a little more heroin than normal right now," he said.
The same successful efforts in Henderson County are catching on next door in Cherokee County as well. Robertson said they’re currently writing their own HRSA grant proposal.
In January, Sheriff Hillhouse says Henderson is planning to kick start a recruitment program within the jail for inmates who would like help kicking their addictions.