Health Center gets grant to fight opioid crisis

Recorder Staff
Thursday, September 14, 2017

GREENFIELD — The Community Health Center of Franklin County will get a $175,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to fight the opioid abuse crisis in greater Franklin County.

On Thursday, the HRSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced $6.4 million will be awarded to 38 health centers throughout Massachusetts to increase access to substance abuse services and mental health services.

“No corner of our country, from rural areas to urban centers, has escaped the scourge of the opioid crisis,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price, in a news release announcing the grants. “The Trump administration is taking strong decisive action to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic,” he said.

For the local Community Health Center, the grant will be used to increase access to Suboxone treatment for patients with opioid dependence. Suboxone is a trademark drug combination that can ease opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms if correctly used, in combination with psychological support.

The grant also makes it possible for the center to have an on-site psychiatric consultant to assist the primary care staff in addressing the psychiatric components of patients’ treatment.

“What we were proposing was about half of this money would go for substance abuse treatment (with Suboxone)”, said Edward Sayer, chief executive officer for the Community Health Center. “With the other half, we will hire a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse who will work with our primary care staff on the psychological components to the conditions patients are having.”

“We treat about 7,000 patients in Franklin County, many of whom are fairly poor,” he said. “We’ll be using the remaining money for that.”

He said the Community Health Center may work with the Center for Human Development (CHC) for counseling services. “When we move from the Cherry Rum Plaza to 102 Main St. this fall, we will be in the same building,” said Sayer.

Overall, $200 million was awarded to 1,178 health centers throughout the nation and U.S. territories to increase access to mental health services and fight substance abuse.

The expanded government funding is aimed at: improving access to treatment and recovery services; promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs; better public health surveillance; providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction; and promoting better practices for pain management.