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  • New face joins County's opioid addiction fight

    Mar 04, 2019 | Read More News
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    File: Mayra RamosIn February, Pima County took a big step forward in its effort to expand and enhance local efforts to combat opioid addiction by hiring Mayra Ramos to manage the Unified Medication Assisted Treatment Targeted Engagement Response (U-MATTER) program, which will provide counselors, known as peer navigators, to respond with law enforcement officers when they encounter individuals with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) in the field.

    Ramos, who has a Master’s degree in Human and Social Services, comes to the County from the American Cancer Society. She has professional experience in the fields of mental health, primary care and substance use. Mayra has worked in community behavioral health in program management, coalition development, substance abuse prevention and treatment administration and system practice and policy changes. She will oversee the successful implementation of the grant, which includes managing training to law enforcement, community outreach and collaborative, and recruitment of peer navigators from CODAC Health Recovery and Wellness, the County’s only provider of round-the-clock behavioral health and addiction treatment services.

    “I’ve really been able to hit the ground running,” Ramos said. “Terrance Cheung [Director of Justice Reform Initiatives] and our program partners in law enforcement, integrated care, university and the behavioral health community built a solid foundation. Pima County surpassed its goals for the U-MATTER co-responder model, initiating implementation within the first month of the program rather than the third month as originally planned. My job is to keep the collaborative approach moving forward and look for opportunities for further expansion.”

    So far, U-MATTER has trained 30 law enforcement officers, including members of the Sheriff’s Department's Mental Health Support Team, in Mental Health First Aid and other evidence-based practices that address substance use and mental health issues. Since last July 268 unduplicated individuals have been deflected from jail into treatment by the Tucson Police Department.

    Ramos will also lead the development of the U-MATTER’s implementation manual and procedures to ensure the program’s sustainability, analyze the data from the field, and coordinate training and outreach efforts in the community.

    Funding for the U-MATTER program come from a three-year, $1.475 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant the Pima County Board of Supervisors accepted last October.

    Data from the Medical Examiner’s Office show the need for the U-MATTER program: overdose deaths in Pima County increased 20 percent between 2010 and 2017. Last year 239 of the 328 overdose deaths countywide included some sort of opiate, with 89 percent of those deaths ruled accidental overdoses.