$200K grant to tackle opioid crisis in Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco counties
CRAIG — America is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.
Memorial Regional Health is one of 95 rural health organizations in America — and the sole entity in Colorado — to receive a $200,000 grant award from the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Rural Communities Opioid Response Program-Planning Initiative.
The program will distribute $19 million to rural health organizations as part of a push from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to award more than $1 billion in opioid-specific grants to help combat the opioid crisis in American communities.
Opioids are substances found in certain prescription pain medications, as well as illegal drugs, such as heroin.
“It’s a very rural problem,” said Paula Davison, MRH’s director of population health.
It’s also a regional problem.
“People go to work in Routt, then live here. … We need information and solutions based on where the population is both working and living and to look at the big picture rather than thinking it’s only happening in one place,” Davison said.
As the lead organization in an interagency project, MRH is developing a consortium of health care, behavioral health, and law enforcement entities to enter a one-year planning phase to address prevention, treatment, and recovery needs for people with opioid use disorder in Moffat, Rio Blanco, Jackson, and Routt counties.
“This issue is pervasive and multiple-pronged. It’s impacting communities. … We don’t seem to really know how to go about fixing the problem,” said Ryan Lucas, who wrote the grant application for MRH. “The collaborative element will be key. It seems the only way to tackle the crisis is to have multiple agencies and cross-jurisdictional efforts. We feel like we have put together a good approach.”
The grant will last one year.
“The hope is that it will launch an implementation phase. That would require reapplication to help fund programs we seek to implement,” Lucas said.
According to a news release from MRH, throughout the grant term, the collaborative project will focus on the following five core planning activities.
• Developing the consortium through a formal memorandum of understanding.
• Completing a detailed analysis of the existing gaps and opportunities in OUD prevention, treatment, and recovery services in Northwest Colorado, with the grant also paying for the consortium to hire a consultant for this phase.
• Developing a comprehensive strategic plan for the region that addresses gaps in OUD prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
• Developing a comprehensive workforce plan, including strategies for recruiting, training, and retaining new staff for OUD prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
• Completing a sustainability plan to improve OUD prevention, treatment, and recovery services in Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties beyond the duration of the one-year grant term.
Davison will serve as project lead for the grant.
“I don’t think we have the research expertise in the community,” Davison said. “I don’t think it’s a resource that we have.”
She added that the grant allows the consortium to hire experts to help fill gaps in knowledge.
“We are fortunate that we have the opportunity to identify the problem and figure out what’s missing in our community and put a plan together about how to address it. We have the luxury of time and money to do that,” Davison said. “I think it’s a great foundation for a lot of future opportunities.”
According to the release, MRH already has confirmed multiple project partners, including Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, Mind Springs Health, Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership, and Northwest Colorado Health.
Rio Blanco County Public Health, Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, and Pioneers Medical Center have also been invited to participate.
In addition, the consortium will seek out the participation of other health care, behavioral health, and law enforcement entities throughout the region during the grant period.
The consortium will have its first official meeting Friday, Oct. 19, at The Memorial Hospital.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.