Project Aimed at Combating Opioid Abuse Receives $750K Grant

The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (formerly Greater Delta Alliance for Health Inc.) recently announced that it was one of 10 organizations across the country to be awarded a Rural Health Opioid Grant this year through the Health Resources & Services Administration.

The partnership's Arkansas Delta Rural Health Opioid Project, its first behavioral health project, received $750,000 to address opioid use disorder in southeast Arkansas over the next three years.

The partnership is an organization of 10 nonprofit Arkansas Delta hospitals: Ashley County Medical Center, Baptist Health Medical Center-Stuttgart, Bradley County Medical Center, Chicot Memorial Medical Center, Dallas County Medical Center, Delta Memorial Hospital, DeWitt Hospital & Nursing Home, Drew Memorial Health System, Jefferson Regional Medical Center and McGehee Hospital.

The goal of the project is to expand locally available screening, education, outreach, case management and counseling services for those at-risk or diagnosed with OUD in Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Dallas, Desha, Drew and Jefferson counties. The project also involves building a coalition to address the drug abuse problem in the community.

The project is also a collaborative effort between the partnership and the 10th District substance abuse program called the New Beginnings Center for Alcohol & Substance Abuse Treatment.

The program will provide behavioral health services in the eight-county region. New Beginnings works with and receives referrals for treatment from district and circuit courts, the Department of Human Services and the Division of Children & Family Services.

The partnership said the joint project is unique in that it begins in the clinical setting at the local clinic and navigates the patient to counseling services provided by local behavioral health experts.

The partnership's hospitals and participating clinics plan to focus on physician and community education and training to identify at-risk individuals, provide case management at the clinic site and provide counseling services via telehealth with a licensed counselor employed by New Beginnings.

Mellie Bridewell, executive director of the partnership, said in a news release, “Our hospitals are recognizing that they must take a leadership role in addressing community health issues. They also acknowledge that they can’t make a difference without involving local organizations, officials and professionals. This project brings southeast Arkansas health care organizations, mental and behavioral health organizations, the legal system and social service organizations together to begin to address these issues we so desperately need to tackle.”

New Beginnings Executive Director Mike Knickerbocker said, “This is a huge step forward. Through our wrap around care coordination services, our efforts will be monitored daily to insure better outcomes for residents of Southeast Arkansas.”

This announcement follows the recognition of drug abuse, specifically prescription drug abuse, as a serious community problem by the mandatory IRS Community Health Needs Assessments conducted by member hospitals in 2016.