Money to fight opioid crisis coming to SW Virginia

Nick Shepherd • May 27, 2017 at 7:00 PM

A recently announced federal grant will make fighting the opioid epidemic a little easier in Southwest Virginia, at least for the next year.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced on May 12 that the commonwealth received a $9.7 million federal grant to help provide substance abuse medication and treatment. The grant was given to the state by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“We’ve been working pretty hard to address the opioid crisis in Southwest Virginia,” Delegate Terry Kilgore said. “We are hopeful and have been working to get some of those dollars to community service boards in Southwest Virginia.”

Planning District One Behavioral Health Services, which works in partnership with Frontier Health to provide mental health and substance abuse services to citizens in Lee, Scott and Wise counties, will receive some of the grant money.

According to a press release, $5 million will be allocated to 18 locally run boards, like Planning District One. How much each community will receive is still being determined. The funds are to be used to increase access to medication-assisted treatment.

The money will be used to purchase medication, support medical staff necessary to prescribe and oversee clinical treatment and remove barriers to access, such as transportation.

It will also help provide counseling and case management, which will help people addicted to opioids begin to recover. In addition, the funds will strengthen and utilize existing local community coalitions, according to the release.

Kilgore said the money is a good first step. He said the legislature will continue to address the opioid issue. Working groups will be laboring over the summer to put together a report about new guidelines for doctors and pharmacists.

He said this issue is bipartisan and everyone is on the same page in combating the crisis.

After the $5 million is distributed, the remaining $4.7 million will be used to support opioid prevention services in an additional 14 communities where data indicates an emerging need and to increase access to Nalaxone, a medication that reverses an opioid overdose when given quickly.

“We have seen the horrible toll that opioids have taken on our communities,” McAuliffe said. “These grant funds will help pay for the necessary medications as well as counseling and other support services that individuals need to successfully recover.”