WVU Institute for Community and Rural Health gets federal money

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University Institute for Community and Rural Health has received $1 million in federal funds to maintain and expand the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program. The money comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Director of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, Amy Snodgrass said the program began in 2019 when overdose deaths spiked across the country. As the numbers were broken down early officials realized rural areas were some of the most at-risk places for opioid overdose deaths.

“They noticed a lot of rural communities do not have access to programs and services to treat substance abuse, so they allocated this funding to help with that,” Snodgrass said.

This program operates in Calhoun, Gilmer, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Wirt and Wood. Now, the program will expand into Doddridge County through the help of Westbrook Health Services. The program focuses on developing connections that foster collaboration to bring sustainability to the programs offered.

“Programs such as mobile units that bring the programs and services to the people,” Snodgrass said. “So, they can go to one of the town in their community and access services.”

The mobile units are staffed with peer recovery coaches, a person on the road to recovery from addiction, that provide a drop-in recovery center, recovery classes, case management and behavioral health programming. According to Snodgrass having peer recovery coaches to work with people is the most effective way to reach those who want to enter treatment. For those who don’t, Snodgrass said they’ll work with them through the peer recovery coaches until they are.

“Somebody that is struggling with substance abuse will say, and we’ve heard it, and our peers in the field can tell you, they’ll say,” Now, have you struggled with this before, because if you haven’t I don’t want to talk to you because you won’t know where I’m coming from,” Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass said one peer recovery coach has been with the program since 2019 and is responsible for getting hundreds to enter treatment. This peer recovery coach plays an important role when offenders are forced into sobriety.

“He actually goes to the jail, meets with clients and diverts them out of jail to treatment,” Snodgrass said. ” Because they need treatment, they’re struggling.”