FARMINGTON — Healthy Community Coalition, an affiliate of Franklin Community Health Network and a member of the MaineHealth family, has been awarded a grant totaling $1 million over three years to implement a Greater Franklin County rural response to the current opioid crisis. The project is an extension of the Rural Addiction Care Expansion)To Recovery effort already in existence locally, according to a news release from Jill Gray, communications, marketing, and fund development director at Franklin Memorial Hospital.

The grant is part of the Health Resources Service Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy that awarded $89 million to 89 rural organizations across 38 states as part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program-Implementation program. These awards are part of a federal, broader focus on rural health and human service issues.

According to administration the majority of the population in Greater Franklin County faces socioeconomic vulnerabilities that include poverty, poor health status, social isolation, and limited educational attainment — factors that put individuals at risk for Opioid Use Disorders. And, Maine is among the top 10 states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the release.

Last year, HCC and its RACE partners from health care, social services, law enforcement, behavioral health, education, and the recovery community identified gaps in services and created pathways to decrease barriers to treatment for people with opioid use discorders.

“Opioid abuse and substance use disorder impacts so many lives in our communities and with the current pandemic this impact is becoming far greater than before,” said Trampas Hutches, FCHN president. “This grant will go a long ways to help those who need help receive it, and it is our commitment to ensure that we do everything we can do so our communities are the healthiest in America.”

With this new grant award, the plan is to further reduce the harmful impact of opioid use through prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services and additionally focuses on special populations including veterans, pregnant and parenting individuals, and those involved with the criminal justice system.

The grant activities will include developing a “one-stop-shopping” concept making navigating the many available services and community resources simple and without judgement or stigma. Services provided will include screening individuals at risk for OUD, community and school prevention education, community-wide stigma awareness education, increasing the number of and access to Medication Assisted Treatment providers, training peer recovery coaches, supporting the development of recovery communities, and education on and the distribution of Naloxone recovery first aid kits used for opioid overdose.

For more information, call Tracy Harty at 779-2830 or Ashley McCarthy at 779-2463.

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