West Virginia University’s expertise on combating the opioid epidemic will be utilized in a federally-funded program targeting seven rural West Virginia counties.
The project, supported by a $1 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services award, aims to strengthen opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services in Calhoun, Gilmer, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Jackson and Tyler counties.
The WVU Institute for Community and Rural Health is spearheading the project, called the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, a multi-year opioid-focused initiative by the Health Resources and Services Administration that focuses on rural areas, due to the limitations to healthcare access and community resources in those regions.
Through the program, WVU researchers will help address the epidemic through multiple angles such as alternative chronic pain management programs, eliminating or reducing treatment costs for uninsured and underinsured patients, and stigma reduction training and workforce development.
Recovery services may include access to transportation, housing, peer recovery, case management, employment assistance and childcare.
“RCORP provides an opportunity for each member of our consortium to contribute expertise and efforts toward reducing the personal and societal impacts of opioid epidemic and substance use disorders by using evidence-based programming at the grassroots level,” said Brianna Sheppard, assistant director for the Institute for Community and Rural Health and the project’s principal investigator. “Integrating these approaches into the ongoing efforts our rural communities will allow them to refine the approaches that work best for them.”
WVU is partnering with several agencies, including the Mid-Ohio Valley Rural Health Alliance, Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, Minnie Hamilton Health System, Northern West Virginia Rural Health Education Center and Westbrook Health Services.