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Centre County to Seek Funds for Addressing Opioid Crisis

by on March 07, 2019 10:29 AM

Centre County will apply for federal funds for expanding efforts to battle the opioid epidemic locally.

Karri Hull, director of criminal justice planning, asked the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to approve a grant application for up to $150,000 in Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program (COAP) funds being made available through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. 

"Federal funds are being made available to support counties in their efforts to engage and retain individuals in treatment and recovery services, increase the use of diversion techniques and/or reduce the instance of overdose death in individuals who are abusing illicit or prescription opioids," Hull said.

The money would be used to support and expand the work of the Centre County Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative. 

Commissioner Steve Dershem, who chairs the HOPE Initiative, said getting those in need of services into treatment as soon as possible is an important goal.

"It’s two-fold. One of them is education but the other part of it… trying to find a warm handoff program that works," Dershem said. "When someone is in crisis to encourage them into a treatment program. That’s one of the things we in Centre County we sort of lack right now and can put some energy into."

Only eight COAP grants are expected to be awarded and applications are only open to counties that work with the University of Pittsburgh Heroin Overdose Prevention Technical Assistance Center.

"We have been involved with the TAC for several years and work closely with them, so that puts us in a better position to apply for the funds," Hull said.

Dershem added that HOPE recently updated its strategic plan with input from TAC. Commissioner Michael Pipe said the achievements of the HOPE Initiative to date also should put the county in good position to receive the funds.

"I think in terms of the progress the HOPE Initiative has made it’s been phenomenal," Pipe said. "The fact that there’s only eight, it’s not as if it’s a mini-grant and everybody’s going to get a little bit. This is truly competitive so I think the fact we’re above and beyond where other counties are at in our response, I think it will position us well for this."

Commissioner Mark Higgins said that through the efforts of the HOPE Initiative and the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, "we’ve drastically shortened the time from the crisis to having them in treatment, but it’s still not quite a warm handoff. So  it would be nice if for a lot of citizens we could actually begin treating them the day of or the day after the crisis."

Dershem noted that getting those in need to accept a treatment program can be a challenge, and the grant could help develop a program to overcome that.

"The reality is… you can kind of bring the horse to water but you can’t make him drink. You can get people to the programs, but you can’t force them into the programs," he said. "Giving them that gentle nudge that sometimes they need is what we’re trying to do here, and trying to give them the incentive to get involved. I think we can make some progress and hopefully make a difference in some lives."

The commissioners will formally vote to approve the grant application on the March 12 consent agenda.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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