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Published: October 11, 2018 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) and partner agencies will use a RAPID response to address Southeast Ohio’s opioid epidemic thanks to a planning grant in the amount of $200,000 from the United States Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

The consortium titled its proposal Regional Approach to Prevent, Intervene and Discontinue (RAPID) Opiate Use in Southeast Ohio.

Hopewell Health Centers Inc. is the lead agency on the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program Planning grant with additional participation from CHSP, the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health, the University of Rio Grande and Buckeye Hills Regional Council — each of which have been engaged in regional initiatives to address the opioid epidemic.

“Ohio University has a moral obligation to assist the communities in which we all live and work,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “We have built a strong team of experts in battling the opioid epidemic in Ohio, and we work with our community partners to identify lasting solutions to the addiction problem in Southeast Ohio.”

Sherry Shamblin, chief strategy officer for Hopewell Health Centers Inc., said she was excited the grant was awarded.

“Hopewell is pleased to coordinate and administer the grant. This is a really good collaborative effort between the University and community partners. (CHSP) Dean Randy Leite recruited some fantastic experts like Tracy Plouck and Orman Hall, who have years of experience and great knowledge and connections,” said Shamblin. “They’ve really pulled together quite a number of experts.”

“Our college is excited to be involved in this venture with Hopewell and our partners,” said Leite. “The opioid epidemic continues to harm our communities and we feel this initiative will allow us all to take a step toward finding solutions for a problem that affects all of our lives.”

“RAPID response teams are one of the most promising strategies for linking people with addiction, in crisis, with the care they need. This grant will help many people survive and regain their lives,” added Richard Hodges, director of the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health.

Shamblin said five counties specifically — Athens, Gallia, Jackson, Meigs and Vinton — are the focus for the grant but the RAPID project will develop plans for Hocking and Washington counties as well.

“We have a chance to take what different communities are doing in the region and lift them up and see what initiatives we can implement,” said Shamblin. “We have the chance to identify models we haven’t tried, measure things we are trying and bring everything to scale.”

The $200,000 will go toward a one-year planning effort with hope of implementing these plans through future grants. The grant is currently in effect and organizational plans regarding the funds are being finalized. The year will be spent developing a strategic plan, performing assessments and creating workforce development plans as well as sustainability plans.

“We have a base for those plans and have thought through quite a bit already. This planning year will allow us to check out what will work to help alleviate the addiction epidemic,” Shamblin said.

The grant also places a focus on hearing from people who have been directly impacted by opioid use disorder.

“The goal is to use University resources to tap into people in recovery or family members who have been impacted so they can provide input into planning efforts,” said Shamblin.

An intentional effort is being made to make the plan as multi-faceted as possible.

“Addiction is a very layered problem and there are no simple solutions,” said Shamblin. “We’ve had the federal and state government trying to help agencies and counties address the issue but despite that, there are still major problems. It’s complex and it needs complex solutions.”