GALLIPOLIS — Professionals from varying walks of life, including first responder agencies and behavioral health professionals, across Gallia, Meigs and Jackson Counties gathered in the French 500 Room of Holzer Medical Center Monday to discuss the ongoing opioid epidemic with US Senator Rob Portman’s staff and grant programs geared to combat the problem.
The senator’s Southeast Ohio District Representative Todd Shelton was on hand to present grant information available to visitors. Timing of many of the grants would mean that agencies and professionals would need to apply for them the following year. Shelton said he felt many of those same grants would follow similar time lines as the previous year.
“We’re going around the state, me and my colleagues, and we all have our own strategies on working with the ADAMH (alcohol, drug addiction and mental health) boards to help facilitate these meetings,” said Shelton. “Basically, what we want to do is get a sense of what you guys are doing here on the ground and what’s going on in your counties and then to get your contact information to keep you apprised of some of the grant programs coming down (through legislation).”
Among recent federal opioid fighting efforts discussed, Shelton spoke of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recover Act (CARA) which authorized the use of $181 million federal dollars to be used for both prevention and opioid treatment programs across the country. The 21st Century Cures initiative pumped $6.3 billion in funds across the country. Ohio received $26 million of that to be used by ADAMH boards and other state programs. Portman endorsed both sets of legislation.
Shelton passed out lists of programs and provided additional information in regard to grant programs.
Kevin Dennis, of Field of Hope, as well as Jackson EMS members said they would like to see templates and step-by-step grant writing measures to help rural areas without access to full-time grant writers. Dennis noted that some grants required a full-time grant writer to even apply for federal dollars and he felt that left many rural areas at a disadvantage. Executive Director of the Gallia, Jackson and Meigs ADAMH Board Robin Harris also expressed concern with the formula by how a region received money from grants. Federal money has been directed to the state’s care to determine which areas may need the most financial assistance. Harris was concerned with the method by which the state determined where that money went.
Attendees voiced concern with how opioid overdose numbers were recorded. When calls for overdose treatment are made, sometimes they can be listed as breathing problems or other issues not considered opioid related until they are recognized as such. This in turn can provide a number which may not truly reflect a region’s opioid problems and therefore affect grant funding based on statistics used to determine an area’s financial need to combat the epidemic.
For more information, visit portman.senate.gov or www.gjmboard.org.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.