NACCHO had the opportunity to sit down with Heather Flanagan and Christine Schippert from Orange County Health Services Department to discuss the vital work they do for overdose prevention through the ISOPSLL project.
Orange County is an organization that focuses on building relationships and supporting the health of their community, even if that looks different for every single person they serve. This program is still fairly new, but lately they’ve done a lot of community outreach and trainings for harm reduction tools like naloxone.
Flanagan mentioned that they like to focus on “reducing barriers and increasing resources whether that’s housing, transportation, getting connected to mental health, whatever the identified goals are for our clients. Recovery is a portion of that for some of our folks and for some of our folks, that just looks like a lot of education surrounding harm reduction.”
Flanagan and Schippert work as a team- some feel more comfortable working with one on something and the other on something else. This system provides security. They have found that it makes their clients feel much more comfortable when they have an option regarding who they work with. They elaborated that oftentimes their information gets spread to people from current clients because of the incredible relationship they share with them. This speaks volumes to the way Flanagan and Schippert interact with community members.
Like every organization, Flanagan and Schippert ran into several barriers while navigating this work. “Finances and housing is always a barrier,” said Flanagan. “I think what has served us well, what has been the most beneficial, is just being real and treating people like humans.” This was something they reiterated time and time again throughout our conversation. They touched on consistency. Showing up consistently for their community was one thing that helped them overcome several obstacles. “When we meet people where they’re at, it’s not just a location, it’s also a mentality,” said Flanagan. This kind of mindset catalyzed the success of their organization.
As far as advice goes, Flanagan and Schippert emphasized the importance of creating relationships- relationships with their community, with EMS and other first responders, and with hospitals and other big organizations. These relationships created a strong foundation for Orange County and continue to help the program flourish.
For more information regarding Flanagan and Schippert’s work, check out their website here.