The Great Rivers Regional System for Addiction Care initiative will work to reduce opioid overdoses and overdose deaths, improve access to substance abuse prevention and treatment services, and reduce the rising rates of HIV and hepatitis C infections. Key components of the initiative include the delivery of risk-reduction services, prevention education, and counseling and referral services; the creation of integrated community-based quick-response teams; the implementation of clinical pathways to treatment and recovery services; specialized treatment centers that serve as hubs for connecting individuals with addiction-to-recovery resources and treatment services; opioid overdose reversal treatment education by local health departments; and community engagement efforts designed to raise awareness of substance use and addiction.
West Virginia has the highest overdose rate in the United States, with opioids responsible for most overdose deaths, and ranks first nationally for rates of hepatitis B and second for rates of hepatitis C. The Great Rivers region, which includes Cabell, Jackson, Kanawha, and Putnam counties, has the highest number of opioid-related deaths in the state.
"We created the system as an innovative, comprehensive approach to address the opioid epidemic, especially among vulnerable populations in the Great Rivers region," said Robert Hansen, director of addiction services at Marshall Health. "We will implement activities in and with local communities, harnessing the expertise of multiple partners, including healthcare providers, public health experts, first responders, and community-based organizations. We are very appreciative of the commitment by the Merck Foundation as we begin to aggressively address this public health issue."