Overdose Lifeline — “Group fighting opioid epidemic hoping to build recovery home”

Ryan Trares, Daily Journal, May 10 2019
Justin Phillips, founder of Overdose Lifeline

As the opioid epidemic and addiction devastates Indiana, those impacted are faced by a disheartening reality.

Even if people trapped by substance use disorder want to get treatment, too few facilities exist to provide that help.

“Right now, there’s a waiting list of four to six months for women in Marion County and the surrounding counties. There is no place for them to go,” said Justin Phillips, founder of Overdose Lifeline.

Overdose Lifeline has been addressing multiple facets of the state’s addiction crisis, from providing life-saving naloxone to families so they can reverse overdoses to hosting education workshops throughout the community.

Increasing the amount of treatment facilities is the organization’s next area of focus. The organization is raising money to build a recovery residence in central Indiana specifically designed to treat women.

All of these efforts require funding, which makes Overdose Lifeline’s upcoming golf outing and silent auction on Thursday vitally important.

“We couldn’t do what we do without it,” Phillips said.

Overdose Lifeline was founded in 2014 by Phillips, following the death of her son, Aaron Sims, of an overdose in 2013. The group’s mission is helping individuals, families and communities affected by addiction and substance use disorder, particularly issues involving opioids. The group focuses on advocacy, education, harm reduction, prevention and support.

“We continue to be on the frontline of a crisis that some people would say is not significantly better,” Phillips said. “We’re still losing 192 people each day, and I meet or am introduced to a new family with a loss weekly.”

Though the distribution of naxolone, also known as Narcan, was the starting point for the organization, it has since branched out into all different areas of the opioid epidemic.

Online education has been paired with its in-person programs to help spread the word about addiction and the dangers of opioids. The group has given out test strips that can detect if fentanyl is present in other substances or drugs. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 100 times more powerful than morphine, has been attributed to the massive increase in overdose deaths in recent years, according to the Indiana Department of Health.

“Almost anything that you can purchase on the street now has fentanyl in it,” Phillips said.

Overdose Lifeline have become the first organization in the country to implement the Preventure program, an evidence-based education program aimed at young people with personality traits that make them more at risk for substance misuse, such as sensation seeking, impulsivity and negative thinking.

Traditional education programs don’t make an impact with those high-risk kids, Phillips said.

“We can go to a high school and do a program to all the freshmen, and believe that we’re being effective. The reality is that we’re not. We’re probably affecting the kids who already thinks that drugs are bad for your brain and won’t use drugs. But we’re not really affecting the kid who thinks the rules don’t apply to them, and will try anyway,” she said.

The plan for the recovery residence was born from the reality that physicians and emergency room staff have very few places to send people who are struggling with addiction and want to get better. Short-term care is available, but there were almost no options for residential care where the structure, medication-assisted treatment and continued counseling would increase their chances for success, Phillips said. Women in particular had next to no options.

Clients to the new Overdose Lifeline recovery residence would receive constant structure and treatment, including mental health and addiction support, individual and group therapy, case management, goal planning, and employment and education assistance.

Planning on the recovery residence has just started, and organizers are planing a focused fund-the-need campaign soon.

Overdose Lifeline does receive some grant money for its programs, but much of its activities are made possible by donations and fundraising. The annual golf outing has become its biggest money-maker.

The outing was created by Taylor Kennell and other friends of Leland Plew, a 22-year-old Center Grove resident who died of an overdose in 2014. Plew was an avid golfer, and his friends wanted to do something involving the game to honor him and others lost to addiction.

They approached Plew’s parents, Susan and David Plew, mentioning their intentions. The Plews had been involved with Overdose Lifeline and suggested they look into it.

The idea grew to honor others who had been victims of the opioid epidemic, including Sims and Center Grove High School graduate Jarrod Polston, who died due to an accidental overdose of methadone in 2010.

“Initially, I just wanted it to be a memorial for my friends,” Kennell said. “All I ever wanted it to do was come together for one day and remember him, remember Jarrod Polston, remember Aaron Sims. It’s skyrocketed from there.”

The first year of the event, 48 golfers took part. Five years later, 146 are signed up. If the fundraising effort meets its goal, the outing will have raised more than $100,000 since 2015.

In addition to the golf, organizers have put together a silent auction, which is expected to generate a considerable amount of money. They’ve added an online option, so people can bid on items even if they’re not physically at the event.

On June 5, Campbell’s Highland Grill in Greenwood is hosting a dine-and-donate. The restaurant is donating 15 percent of all sales to Overdose Lifeline if they mention the organization.

All of these events not only help raise money, but provide an opportunity to educate people about addiction and make people aware of the damage it does, David Plew said.

“The golf outing also continues to give the community exposure to this problem that isn’t going away,” he said. “It’s a way for Taylor and people who participate to keep the memories of their loved ones alive. Hopefully, their losses can be used for good.”

Overdoes Lifeline Memorial Charity Golf Outing

What: A golf outing and silent auction in memory of Brandon Justice, Leland Plew, Jarrod Polston, Aaron Sims and all other lives lost to drugs and alcohol. The event benefits Overdose Lifeline.

When: 11 a.m. Thursday

Where: Dye’s Walk Country Club, 2080 S. SR 135, Greenwood

How to help: People can donate at OverdoseLifeline.org. They can also take part in the silent auction, either by coming to the event or online at Qtego.net/qlink/overdoselifeline.

Organizers are also still looking for a platinum sponsor for the event.

Future fundraisers: From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 5, Campbell’s Highland Grill, 1001 N. SR 135, Greenwood, is hosting a dine-and-donate. The restaurant will donate 15 percent of sales to Overdose Lifeline if diners mention the organization.

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