A Father Joe’s Villages truck. Courtesy of the charity

Father Joe’s Villages’ Village Health Center announced Monday it received a $96,500 grant from the California Department of Health Care Services’ Medication Assisted Treatment Expansion Project to help fund substance use disorder services.

Since 2018, the homeless services provider has partnered with Fashion Valley Comprehensive Treatment Center to be a clinical service provider within the California Hub and Spoke system —  a component of the MAT Expansion Project that increases medication assisted treatment services throughout the state with a “hub” that provides daily intensive, inpatient treatment and multiple “spokes” that provide weekly, bi-weekly or monthly outpatient treatment.

The partnership allowed the Village Health Center to become eligible for this round of grant funding, which will provide it access to Narcan, the medication that security officers at Father Joe’s Villages administer when they find someone who is at risk of losing their life from an opioid overdose.

The Village Health Center’s Narcan-administration training program has proven to be a life-saving tool for the Father Joe’s Villages security team. Funding will allow the Village Health Center to continue necessary training for the security team, patients and community members on how to administer Narcan.

According to the organization, security officers have used the medication to save 34 lives in and around the village this year, with zero lives lost to drug overdoses.

“When the Village Health Center began to expand its substance use disorder services, we knew that we needed to enhance training and support to our village team members,” said Dr. Megan Partch, clinic director at Father Joe’s Villages. “One of the critical teams to receive this training was our security team, (which) has witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of substance use in our community.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the opioid overdose epidemic began with increased opioid prescriptions in the 1990s, with more than 760,000 drug overdose deaths since 1999. Two out of three drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved an opioid. Last year alone, 645 accidental drug overdose deaths occurred in San Diego County, according to the County of San Diego Communications Office.

This fall, during a “Save a Life” pin ceremony, five Father Joe’s Villages security officers were recognized for their life-saving efforts while on the job, including Frank Udeuhi.

“I joined the Father Joe’s Villages security team to show love, compassion and respect while patrolling the village,” Uduehi said. “I believe life is very important and my training has allowed me to give people the opportunity to continue living.”

The pins are given to officers who save a life using CPR for respiratory failure, heart failure, choking on food and overdoses. Security officers are often the first responders to arrive on scene when individuals at the villages are experiencing a medical emergency.

— City News Service