Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs has received a $200,000 grant from the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) in the U.S. Department of Health to help communities in the planning phase of the HRSA Rural Communities Opioid Response Program.

According to a news release announcing the award, the Voinovich School partnered with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) to submit two separate, but complementary, grant proposals, and both were funded for $200,000 each. 

The partnership, the release explained, will enable the organizations to work with communities in Ashtabula, Fairfield, Seneca, Sandusky and Washington counties to assist with their efforts in opioid response planning. The focus will be to develop an innovative approach to reducing opioid-related overdose deaths in high-risk, rural communities in Ohio, the release said.

“We have all seen the damage that opioids can do to a community, and we believe this grant will allow Ohio University and its partners to start undoing some of that damage,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said in the release. “We’re proud to be part of the planning efforts taking place in each of these affected areas to seek long-lasting solutions to the opioid problem.”

To implement the grant, the organizations are developing a consortium of Voinovich School faculty and professionals, PIRE researchers and local community health authorities, according to the release. The consortium will work with the local communities to develop a comprehensive strategic plan that addresses gaps in the continuum of care, along with a workforce plan to ensure communities have sufficiently trained personnel to address the opioid crisis.

“OhioMHAS is thrilled that the Voinovich School and PIRE were awarded HRSA grants under the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program,” Mark Hurst, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), said in the release. “These funds will help to maximize resources that the department has received from the 21st Century Cures Act, specifically the Community Collective Impact for Change project, and will enhance our already strong partnership. This project will provide an important step forward for the selected communities in the fight against opioid use, and in addressing community trauma.”

Director of the Ohio Department of Health Lance Himes also supported both proposals and named the Voinovich School as a leading organization in addressing the opioid crisis in Ohio, the release said.

“The opportunity for communities to engage in needs and gap assessments and to create comprehensive strategic plans for addressing opioid-use disorder that work across multiple sectors will be transformative for the participating communities,” Himes said in the release. “The projects complement and extend the Ohio Department of Health’s ongoing work, and we look forward to the opportunity to extend our collective impact with the Voinovich School and PIRE.”

Since 2009, the Voinovich School has been involved in a dozen statewide initiatives related to substance-use prevention and mental health promotion, alongside the OhioMHAS and various prevention partners, under the direction of project lead and associate professor Holly Raffle, the release said. The Voinovich School has three current initiatives aimed at 

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