MRH lands $3 million in federal grants to improve regional response to substance use, behavioral health disorders

Memorial Regional Health has been awarded $3 million in federal grant money over the next four years to lead a collaborative effort involving two-dozen partner agencies dedicated to combating substance use and behavioral health disorders.

According to MRH, the two grants total $3 million with that money earmarked to support work in Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Jackson and Grand counties.

The Health Resources and Services Administration awarded MRH the grants to continue expanding prevention, treatment and recovery services for opioid and substance use disorders, as well as behavioral health disorders, across Northwest Colorado. The grants are part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, or RCORP, which is a multi-year federal initiative designed to reduce the prevalence of substance use disorder, including opioids, in rural communities.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, the death rate involving substances that stimulate the central nervous system was almost one-third higher in rural communities than it is in urban areas.

“We are tremendously grateful to HRSA for recognizing our need for financial support in addressing substance use disorder and behavioral health needs, and trusting in our ability to use funding in a meaningful way,” said Paula Belcher, director of MRH’s Population Health & Care Coordination Services, in a news release. “To be one of 58 awardees of the RCORP-BHS grant and the only Colorado recipient is a huge honor, and speaks well of the confidence HRSA has in our ability to effectively use this funding.”

In the recent Community Health Needs Assessment, survey respondents reported that substance and drug abuse was the worst health problem in Moffat County and across the Yampa Valley.

The two grants awarded to MRH fall within two divisions of the RCORP program — either implementation or behavioral health care support. While MRH was the only group in Colorado to receive funding through RCORP’s behavioral health care support, MRH was one of two organizations in Colorado to receive funding through an RCORP implementation grant.

The consortium MRH is leading is referred to as the Rural Alliance Addressing Substance Use Disorder-Colorado, or RAS-Col, and includes a wide range of past and present members including the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, Colorado Farm Bureau, Culinary Hospitality Outreach, and Wellness and Colorado Workforce Center.

Other past and present members of the consortium are the sheriffs’ offices and health departments in Moffat, Grand and Rio Blanco counties, Grand County Rural Health Network, The Health Partnership, Memorial Regional Health, Mind Springs Health, Northwest Colorado Health, Open Heart Advocates, Oxford House, Partners for Youth, Providence Recovery Services, Sk8 Church, The Steadman Group, Yampa Valley Medical Center and Young People in Recovery.

According to MRH, the partnership has distributed harm-reduction kits across the region and built the website, as they work to increase community education, reduce stigma for individuals and families affected by substance-abuse disorder, and improve access to treatment resources.

With the grant money, the consortium will focus on a number of key areas. They are:

  • Outreach and resources for the Spanish-speaking community.
  • Substance use disorder and behavioral health support for the agricultural community.
  • Increased coordination with jails and criminal justice systems.
  • Improved cooperation with employers for recovery-supportive workplaces.
  • Life skills for people working to sustain their recovery.
  • Breaking down barriers that impede treatment.
  • Increasing treatment options in the region and training care providers and community leaders in supporting those suffering or recovering from substance use disorder.
  • And helping people who have behavioral health needs that put them at risk for developing a substance use disorder.

According to MRH, RAS-Col is also welcoming other regional agencies that want to take part in completing the work associated with the grants.

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