$6 million out of almost $400 million in federal funds has been awarded to Alaska health centers to better address substance abuse and misuse throughout the state. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded Norton Sound Health Corporation just shy of $285,000 earlier this year.
According to a press release from HRSA, these funds will enable health centers like NSHC to expand substance use disorder and mental health services. With the opening of the Behavioral Health Services Day Shelter soon approaching, the director of BHS, Lance Johnson says this grant came just in time.
“It is imperative we have the opportunity to be immediately accessible for patients who have present substance use concerns (and any co-occurring mental health needs) and provide them with constant coordinated referral and care; the longer someone is left without contact, appointments, and medication follow-ups, the greater a chance he/she will arrive at the ED and/or drop from services,” said Johnson.
The thousands of dollars in HRSA funds will be used to pay for a full time case manager whose sole focus will be chronic and high acute substance misuse patients. Through the treatment and referral services soon to be offered at the Day Shelter in Nome, this new BHS staff member will be able to offer patients a better chance for recovery. Johnson also pointed out that the federal award can finance Vivitrol training, an inject-able form of Naltrexone, for BHS providers in the villages as well as in Nome.
To help manage these patients, NSHC will employ the use of a MAT Team to ensure anyone receiving medications for addiction is carefully monitored and reviewed. Because opioids are prescribed in the region and becoming a concern for misuse, Johnson stressed that a Chronic Pain Care Team will manage patients prescribed opiates for pain. A member of the team will be trained in the use of and administer the Opioid Risk Tool with any patient to receive opioids for chronic pain management.
In the near future, a contract psychiatrist will also be added to address and screen for co-occurring mental health concerns driving the substance misuse. These funds were awarded to NSHC earlier in September and can be utilized until August 2020.