Texas A&M researchers to study opioid use in the Crossroads

The Crossroads only has two companies that can provide medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, which is not nearly enough to serve people locally who are trying to recover from opioid addictions.

This finding is one of several included in a strategic plan from a group of researchers examining the opioid epidemic in the Victoria region.

A Wednesday panel will discuss these findings and other aspects of the opioid epidemic in the Crossroads. This is the second town hall hosted by Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach Center. The center is partnering with the Texas A&M University College of Nursing for the virtual town hall, which will be open to participants via the video conferencing tool Zoom.

“The town hall is really going to focus on opioids and the signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal symptoms or if somebody’s having an overdose,” said Daniel Barrientos, the executive director of Billy Cattan. “We’re also going to talk about what it looks like here in Victoria as far as what our numbers show.”

Dr. Jodie Gary, part of a team of researchers with Texas A&M University and an assistant professor at the College of Nursing, will be one of several panelists participating in the discussion. Gary and her colleagues received a $200,000 grant to research the scope of opioid use disorder in the Crossroads, and to develop a strategic plan for how the region can better support and care for those in recovery. Gary will detail the team’s findings, including the overall conclusion that there is a “significant need for (opioid use disorder) services in this region, with high-uninsured rates, high poverty rates, and overall lack of health care providers and resources to support individuals and families impacted by (opioid use disorder).”

In total, prescription and illegal opioids have killed almost 450,000 Americans between 1999 and 2018, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early reports show that the COVID-19 pandemic might be linked to an increase in overdoses from any drug type, as Americans have grappled with isolation, uncertainty, and an economic downturn since March. Preliminary data from last year shows that in Texas, 47% of all drug overdose deaths involved opioids, although it’s likely that this doesn’t capture the full picture of opioid use in Texas because of the state’s flawed system for tracking opioid-caused deaths.

Barrientos said he hopes anyone interested in learning more about the epidemic, and particularly those who work for nonprofits or with the public in other capacities, will participate in Wednesday’s event. Those attending will be able to ask questions through Zoom.

The panelists include Gary; local psychiatrist Dr. Kourtne Roberts; Ryan Jaynes, who participated in Billy Cattan’s rehabilitation program; Dr. Joy Alonzo, an assistant clinical professor of pharmacy practice at Texas A&M; Elma Saenz, a clinical coordinator at Billy Cattan; and Regina Beard, the director of Project ECHO at Texas A&M. Barrientos will moderate the discussion, which will last from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

Ciara McCarthy covers public health for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at cmccarthy@vicad.com or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara. To support local journalism at the Advocate through Report for America, go to VictoriaAdvocate.com/report.

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Health Reporter

Ciara McCarthy covers public health and health care for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. Questions, tips, or ideas? Please get in touch: cmccarthy@vicad.com or call 361-580-6597.

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