The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced more than $80 million in awards to rural communities in 39 states to support key strategies to respond to the overdose risk from fentanyl and other opioids.
More than 100,000 people die each year from overdose. Individuals who call rural communities home and who are experiencing opioid use disorder – including from fentanyl, heroin or other opioids – can face challenges in accessing treatment and recovery services. Geographic isolation and transportation barriers can make it difficult to find treatment. And limited mental health and substance use disorder health care providers in the community can further complicate access. The stigmatization of substance use disorder and its treatments are additional barriers to access. HRSA’s funding is targeted to helping communities address these critical needs and expand access to services.
“Far too many rural families have faced the devastation of overdose, and these deaths are felt deeply across rural communities – where often everyone knows someone lost too soon,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “At the Health Resources and Services Administration, we know that funding based on population size or other broad-based rubrics can miss the vital treatment and response needs of rural communities. That’s why the investments are targeted to rural communities and tailored to the unique challenges of helping rural health care leaders expand access to treatment and build recovery pathways to prevent overdose.”
“The awarding of grants aimed at preventing and treating substance misuse is central to SAMHSA’s daily work with communities throughout our nation,” said Dr. Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, the HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, and the leader of SAMHSA. “The timing this year coincides with the implementation of a law that expands the number of prescribers eligible to provide medication for opioid use disorder treatment. Recovery is real and attainable.”
Approximately 3.3 million will be granted to rural communities in my home state of Pennsylvania. It is my hope that our rural communities will secure these grants and use them productively for drug education, access to treatment and intervention to help prevent the many overdoses that have claimed so many lives in our state and country.
We recognize that so many of our programs have been under-funded. This is an exciting opportunity to expand treatment and open up opportunities for our rural communities to provide help and support to those who are struggling with addictions. I hope it will become more than a one-time funding trend. We will continue to need on-going support for this very widespread, serious and deadly epidemic.