Published on December 13, 2019

Effort to focus on rural communities

One year after receiving a planning grant to identify strategies in the fight against opioid and other substance misuse in rural communities, Essentia Health has been awarded $1 million to turn its plans into action.

This latest three-year Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant targets two rural areas — northern St. Louis County in eastern Minnesota and Becker, Clearwater and Mahnomen counties in the western part of the state. It funds the Upper Midwest Rural Opioid Response Implementation Project, including a robust regional consortium comprised of a broad range of partners across Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

“Rural networks are key to the success of programs designed to improve health outcomes of people living in rural communities,” said Pat Conway, PhD, project director and a research scientist at the Essentia Institute of Rural Health. “Integrated care occurs through teaming within primary care clinics — physicians and other advanced practitioners providing medication-assisted treatment, as well as nurses, care coordinators and behavioral-health specialists ensuring access to treatment and interventions addressing social determinants of health in the clinic and community.”

Community partners include:

  • Center for Alcohol & Drug Treatment in Duluth
  • Range Mental Health Center and St. Louis County Public Health & Human Services in Virginia
  • Well Being Development in Ely
  • FATHER Project
  • Sharehouse in Fargo, N.D.

The implementation grant focuses on increasing access to resources for people who live in rural areas. Specifically, the goals are to:

  • Prevent substance/opioid use disorder in rural areas
  • Increase access to evidence-based treatment strategies in rural and tribal communities
  • Make treatment and recovery programming more readily available in rural and tribal communities

“Timely access to proven therapies is critical for patients with opioid-use disorder,” said Dr. Joe Bianco, ambulatory quality leader for opioid programming at Essentia Health. “This grant will allow us to build a network of clinics and community partners focused on providing this access. Rural communities are hit especially hard by the lack of resources addressing substance use. In three years, we hope to have reversed that trend by providing state-of-the-art models of care.”

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