Some of that money is coming to Maryland, including the City of Frederick.
Washington DC (KM). The Health Resources and Services Administration is awarding more than $400-million to community health centers, schools and rural organizations across the country. The funds will be used to expand access services for substance abuse, and mental health services. “With the funding, we are hoping that they will be able to start identifying individuals who overdosed from opioids, and making sure they have the support and resources they need to be able to refer them to treatment, and also support them through recovery,” says Nisha Patel, Senior Adviser with the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.
Nearly $6-million is coming to Maryland, and that includes the City of Frederick. “And what we are trying to do here is make sure that the state of Maryland, rural and urban communities, have the support to address this issue,” Patel says.
The Health Resources and Services Administration and the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy are both part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The grant award from HRSA has three main components: $352-million to increase access to substance abuse disorder and mental health services; $18.5-million to increase the number of professionals and paraprofessionals who are trained to deliver integrated health and primary care services as part of health care teams in HRSA-supported health centers; and $25.5-million to more than 120 rural organizations to increase access to substance abuse prevention and treatment services serving rural populations across the country.
The grants of nearly $400-million are part of more than $1-billion in opioid-specific grants begin awarded across the nation to help combat the opioid crisis. The Department’s five-point strategy to fight this problem is: Better addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services; better data; better pain management; better targeting of overdose reversing drugs; and better research.
One of the problems facing health care professionals in dealing with the opioid abuse crisis is getting treatment and services to residents in rural areas. “Drug use is higher in urban areas when you look at the statistics overall,” says Patel. “But deaths by overdose is actually more significant in rural areas.”
She says that’s because many treatment facilities are too far away. “Oftentimes, when an individual overdoses, it takes a while for law enforcement or an EMS official to arrive on the scene,” says Patel. “And so that individual may die before they get there. It also takes them longer to get transported to the nearest emergency room or hospital.”
Another challenge is many rural areas don’t have health care professionals who are trained in dealing with overdose problems. “There are a lack of specialized experts, substance abuse counselors. There’s a lack of doctors. There’s a lack of nurse-practitioners as it is in rural communities. But then to find someone who has expertise in this area, that’s even a greater challenge,” says Patel.
There;s also a stigma among residents in rural areas when it comes to asking for help with substance abuse. “And so they may be very hesitant to reach out and ask for help,” she says.
Part of the federal funds has been set aside to improve services for rural communities. “That’s a big part of what some of this funding is going to do: how can we start educating everyone in the community, law enforcement, the EMS, the docs, everyone else to help them understand that this really is a disease and that we need to break through that stigma so that individual feels comfortable seeking treatment,” says Patel.
HRSA says drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2016 stood at 19.8 per 100,000, an increase from 6.1 per 100,000 in 1999. In Maryland, it was 32.2 per 100,000, which three-times more than in 2010 which was 11 per 100,000.
By Kevin McManus