Kennebec Behavioral Health has received a $100,000 grant to help better serve people struggling with opiate addiction.

The planning grant from the Maine Health Access Foundation will be administered over two years and will support the newly formed Somerset Expansion of Addiction Care Collaborative. It will help build practice and provider capacity to begin offering medication assisted treatment to those suffering with opiate addiction.

Tina Chapman, development and communications director for KBH, said the planning grant will look to pull together stakeholders and people with lived experiences in the field, ranging from emergency medical service providers, law enforcement agencies and people with some level of involvement in primary or specialty care. The idea behind the planning grant is to increase the knowledge of primary care providers about medication-assisted treatment, which combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance abuse disorders, to address barriers to participation in treatment and to strengthen relationships with specialists in the field.

Chapman said they also would look to engage and utilize the experiences of people in recovery and their families. “They’re part of the solution,” she said.

Nearly 380 Maine residents died from opioid-related overdoses last year, a number that has been rising steadily in recent years. In a news release, KBH Chief Executive Officer Thomas McAdam said the epidemic of addiction “is both a tragedy and legitimate health crisis.”

Chapman said medication assisted treatment is a “whole person approach” in that it involves counseling and peer-to-peer support. Specifically, the grant will target pregnant women, new mothers and infants, and geographically underserved rural areas.

The Maine Health Access Foundation is the state’s largest private nonprofit health care foundation, and the organization promotes access to quality health care. Chapman said the Somerset Expansion of Addiction Care Collaborative is an effort involving KBH, Crisis and Counseling, Redington-Fairview General Hospital and Skowhegan Family Medicine, as well as those field experts. She said it was a fairly big initiative, but one that was much needed in Somerset County. Given the high rates of poverty and substance abuse and a low ratio of providers, Chapman said, access to health care is an important issue.

The timing for this planning grant is two years, during which those involved will look at the current recovery resources available and what’s still needed in the community. Chapman said they will look at how to provide the best access and enhance systems of care in order to support those in need.

“It’s a process of figuring out what do we need to do to achieve that,” she said.

It may not take the full two years, she said. Once the collaborative comes to a conclusion on how best to provide the necessary level of care, they will pursue a full implementation grant to increase access to medication-assisted treatment. This first year’s goals are to reduce barriers and expand the capacity for providers.

“I think it’s very forward thinking of the Maine Health Access Foundation to take a broad scope look at it,” she said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

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Twitter: @colinoellis