Health and Human Services leader visits D.A.R.T unit, shares federal opioid findings

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Since 2014 the Lucas County Sheriff's Drug Abuse Response Team -- DART -- has helped victims of the opioid epidemic overcome their addictions. Now five years later, those beyond Northwest Ohio are taking notice of the program.

Image Source: U.S. Air Force / Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner / MGN

"We want to look at different models and different approaches to the opioid crisis to find what's working so we can help other communities replicate that success," Dough O'Brien of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.

O'Brien spent time in Toledo on Thursday learning the in's and out's of the DART unit. He also shared updates on how the federal government is working to help communities battle addiction.

"The only way we're going to be able to tackle this is by supporting solutions that come out of the community," O'Brien said. "Those have the best effectiveness and best success."

O'Brien says he's studied the ways various agencies battle opioid addiction. One thing he says DART does differently, though, is include the community in the fight.

"The way that the DART program has integrated social services, counseling, and brought in other law enforcement stakeholders is really something that we haven't seen a great deal of," O'Brien said.

The collaboration is something that Sheriff John Tharp says is the key to saving so many lives.

"It is expanding, and it's going to continue to expand, but the community has helped a lot," Tharp said.

Since its inception DART has joined forces with hospitals, counselors and recovery centers. They're important community partnerships that Sheriff Tharp says helps victims stay out of jail and get back on track.

"Our DART officers are able to link them to the right people and have the answers and can help fix their problems," Tharp said.

While it's a never-ending fight, O'Brien says DART is doing its part to help break the cycle of addiction, and it's a model he plans to share in our nation's capital.

“We want to change attitudes across the country about addiction so that we as a society are better able to deal with it," O'Brien said.