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Health centers to receive money in opioid epidemic fight

Health centers to receive money in opioid epidemic fight

June 21st, 2018 by Joe Gamm in News

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. The maker of the powerful painkiller decided to stop marketing opioid drugs to doctors, a surprise reversal after lawsuits blaming the company for helping trigger the current drug abuse epidemic. OxyContin had long been the world's top-selling opioid painkiller and generated billions in sales for privately-held Purdue. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Mid-Missouri efforts to address mental health concerns and to fight the opioid epidemic will get a boost thanks to recently announced federal grants.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday made $350 million available to expand access to services at community health centers for substance use disorders and mental health concerns, according to a department news release.

The Community Health Center of Central Missouri, one of thousands of health providers supported by the Health Services and Resources Administration (HSRA), will receive more than $250,000, said Jeff Davis, director of the local health center.

Davis said the center has been approved for $100,000 in "base funding," which can be used to hire providers or support staff. It is qualified to receive $250 for each patient who received Medicaid-assisted treatment in 2017. Finally, it is to receive $150,000 in one-time funding for expanded services (possibly equipment or software or other items that are to be determined).

The clinic has to complete an application by July 16, according to the news release.

HHS will contact the clinic to provide technical assistance with the application, Davis said. However, it's so soon in the process, that call has not yet come.

"They'll tell us they'd like to see projects 'like this or that,'" Davis said. "They'll provide a little more clarity."

Davis will have to talk to the center's board to find out how they'd like to approach the grant.

Grants for health centers are normally a competitive process, he said. However, this is different because the funds have already been designated for each health center. And the funds are to be released in September, which is a much faster turnaround than with other grants.

The funds support HSRA health centers throughout the nation. The administration works with more than 90 programs nationwide that provide health care to those geographically isolated, or economically or medically vulnerable. The organization does this through grants and cooperative agreements with more than 3,000 recipients, including community and faith-based organizations; colleges and universities; hospitals; state, local or tribal governments; and private entities.

When HHS announced the funding, it also sent out notifications to health centers to let them know how much money they qualify for, Davis said.

"Everyone's trying to figure out, 'How do we allocate money? How do we fix these problems?'" he said.

The HSRA programs serve tens of millions of people who are unable to access high quality health care.

The funds support health centers in implementing and advancing evidence-based strategies, including expanded medication-assisted treatment services.

Expanding access to programs that give patients resources for mental health services or help them overcome substance abuse disorders supports the department's Five-Point Opioid Strategy to overcome the opioid epidemic.

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The U.S. opioid epidemic refers to a rapid growth in use of prescription and non-prescription opioids, beginning in the late 1990s and continuing today. The use of opioids led to "epidemic levels" of opioid overdose deaths, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. In the past few years, there have been more than 50,000 overdose deaths in the United States annually.

The strategy is intended to help local communities overcome the crisis.

It includes giving patients improved prevention, treatment and recovery services; improving data on the epidemic; streamlining pain management through prescribing guidelines and evidence-based approaches; providing overdose-reversing drugs; and researching pain and addiction.

Primary care settings, such as the community health centers, have "increasingly become a gateway to integrated care for individuals with substance use disorder and primary care needs," according to the news release.

"The big push is substance abuse," Davis said. "I'm not usually opposed to receiving money. The question is: How do we integrate that?"

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