C.O.A.T helps Salisbury community battle addiction


Photo By: Haley Dick


Gull Life Editor


The Wicomico County Health Department, with funding from the county and the city, has collaboratively worked to create a program to help residents of Wicomico County combat addiction.

 The Community Outreach Addictions Team, otherwise known as C.O.A.T, established itself in June 2016 with the intention to work towards combating the heroin epidemic throughout the county, but provides guidance for all opioid addictions. According to their informational pamphlet, C.O.A.T’s goal is “to stop overdoses and provide a smooth transition to treatment services.”

 The team of peer support specialists act as an available resource to struggling addicts by sharing their personal knowledge and experiences of addiction and recovery to help them find the hope and purpose they are looking for during the initial steps to recovery.

 Tasha Jamison, registered peer supervisor of the C.O.A.T team, speaks about how the program has been effective and successful over the time it has been in action.

 “It has been very beneficial to the hospital, and law enforcement has been utilizing it on a regular basis as well. It has been an amazing community effort. The collaboration between agencies is something other counties will say, ‘how did you do that? Hospitals don’t talk to people outside of the hospital? Law enforcement doesn’t talk to people outside of law enforcement.’ But, all of our local agencies realized that nobody could fix this if they were keeping everything secret.”

 While the direct assistance of the program comes from the peer specialists, Jamison shares that college students and community members can help the efforts of C.O.A.T in additional ways.

 “The most important things are education, identifying individuals and taking away the stigma. I encourage anyone in the community to go to the free [Narcan] training offered every month in the library, and with that free training you get a prescription or the kit when you are there, because you just never know when you are going to walk into a bathroom in your home and find somebody passed out. If you have that in your pocket, you can save a life.”

 The Salisbury University Counseling Center helps SU students cope with addiction as well by providing intake assessment, individual or group therapy, referral to more intensive treatment programs as well as consultations with those hoping to encourage a loved one to fight back against their addiction.

 Dr. Kathleen Scott, director of the counseling center, provides advice for students suffering from addiction.

 “Many aspects of alcohol abuse, mixing alcohol and other drugs, and use of heroin, opioids and other prescription drugs can be lethal, in addition to damaging various aspects of a person’s life,” Scott said. “Express your concern and get help for your friends who are abusing alcohol and using other drugs. Don’t be afraid to talk about it.”

 Those in the professional field are not the only people to acknowledge the critical issue of substance abuse. Senior community health major and psychology minor and Counseling Center intern Devynn Detzer is working to create a health promotion program in collaboration with three other community health interns working through the Wellness Program and Student Health Services.

 “Together, we hope to eventually create a collaborative video addressing the issue with an overlying goal of creating awareness and erasing the stigma that goes along with substance abuse,” Detzer said. “Ultimately, we would like to educate the campus community on opioid and heroin abuse by creating and promoting awareness of facts and data available, and approach the topic of stigma in relation to these types of addictions, hopefully diminishing the negativity that coincides with the topic as well as spreading awareness that getting addicted to these drugs could happen to anyone and it is okay to seek help.”

 Students should be on the lookout for flyers promoting the student-constructed video and utilize the Counseling Center for any additional related questions.

 Those residing in the surrounding area and personally battling addiction who need an understanding ear of guidance are encouraged to call the C.O.A.T team at (443) 783-6875. As for friends and family struggling to watch their loved ones combat addiction and get clean, call (410) 742- 3784 to reach the Addictions Support Network where a peer recovery specialist will happily set a meeting to answer any circulating questions, broad or specific.

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