Magnolia Regional Medical Center is one of 14 hospitals in Arkansas that will share a $750,000 grant to combat the misuse of opioids.
The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP), which includes MRMC and 13 other hospitals in southern and eastern Arkansas, is one of 21 sites selected to receive a “Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic” grant. The Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the State Justice Institute will provide the money spread over two years.
The money will be used to implement a strategy for intervention to bridge the gap between healthcare providers and the judicial system. It seeks to expand access to therapeutic services for individuals with opioid use disorder.
The grant is also designed to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with opioid overdoses among individuals who come in contact with law enforcement or are involved in the criminal justice system.
As a first step, ARHP recently hired Robert Dean to serve as the project coordinator for the Rural Response to the Opioid Epidemic grant. Dean, a Southeast Arkansas native, attended Monticello High School. He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 2015 and the UA William H. Bowen School of Law in 2018.
According to the Arkansas Drug Director’s office, Arkansas is 2nd in the U.S. for over-prescribing opioid medications at an average of 114.6 opioid prescriptions per 100 people (the national average is 66.5 prescriptions per 100 people). There are more opioid prescriptions than people in Arkansas.
“The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership has been working closely with my office as well as other community and state partners to address the opioid epidemic in South Arkansas. We know that there are gaps involved in this rural area that needs to be desperately addressed,” said Arkansas State Drug Director Kirk Lane.
“The ability to utilize available funding from the Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic grant, provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), is having a significant impact in building collaborative partnerships and opening lines of communications toward resolving this issue and reducing the stigma caused by substance misuse. I am encouraged by this great effort to date and look forward to the achievements of this working group, as a model for other parts of our state and country."
Improving cooperation between local law enforcement and healthcare services will be key to meeting the initiative’s stated goals of preventing and reducing overdose deaths associated with opioids.
According to ARHP executive director Mellie Bridewell, “The funding through this project will enable ARHP to respond to their respective communities’ requests to provide and increase needed resources for South Arkansas judicial and law enforcement agencies to address this issue.”
“We are excited to partner with Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, the collaboration of local and state leaders is paramount for the safety of the citizens of Arkansas,” said John Carter, cmmander of the 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force.
In addition to MRMC, participating hospitals are the 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, Helena Regional Medical Center, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, McGehee Hospital, Medical Center of South Arkansas and Ouachita County Medical Center.
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