By Kristin Fox
At this week’s work session of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, County Manager Don Adams shared “good news” with county officials that Jackson County has been awarded $368,429 through the Dogwood Health Trust – Opioid Planning Grant from the health substance planning program. The grant will support Jackson County’s substance abuse recovery planning program for a two-year period in preparation for expenditure allocation from the national opioid settlement.
The primary focus of this project is to create a comprehensive plan on how to better address substance abuse disorders in Jackson County. Planning activities will align with the Memorandum of Agreement between the State of North Carolina and Jackson County on proceeds related to the settlement of opioid litigation. The goal is to create a long-term plan for the opioid settlement funding.
The money awarded to the county will be used over a two-year period to support the salary for a full-time substance recovery coordinator position along will all associated fringe benefits. The position will be paid in accordance with the county’s career path hiring policy with a starting salary and benefits of $91,598.30 for the first year and $94,804.24 for the second year.
In addition, the grant will cover all costs associated with office space allocation, supplies, operational costs, travel, training, mileage reimbursement and equipment costs budgeted at $72,026. An additional, $10,000 will be allocated from the grant funding to cover costs such as venue rental and meals associated with holding larger planning meetings with community stakeholders. The grant will also cover the cost of contracted consulting services, temporary services and part-time assistance as needed at $100,000. Total amount budgeted for these additional costs for the program is $182,026 for the two-year period.
The planning process will include creating and enhancing community partnerships, developing a comprehensive needs assessment as well as collecting and maintaining data on existing and new programs. It is anticipated that the planning process will enhance partnerships by identifying new opportunities between stakeholder groups. The program could build additional capacity by connecting programs with each other and with unmet needs.
Stakeholder involvement would include local county and municipal officers; health care providers; social services providers; education and employment services; payers and funders; law enforcement; employers and business leaders; community groups; stakeholders with “lived experience,” and stakeholders reflecting diversity of community.
For example, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners has identified several areas of interest from the North Carolina Memorandum of Agreement between the state and local governments Option A — High Impact Abatement Strategies. The interests identified by the county include addiction treatment and reentry programs for incarcerated persons.
Addiction treatment for incarcerated persons includes support evidence-based addiction treatment, including Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) with at least one FDA-approved opioid agonist, to persons who are incarcerated in jail or prison. MAT is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, which is effective in the treatment of opioid use disorders (OUD) and can help some people to sustain recovery.
Reentry programs refer to support programs that connect incarcerated persons to addiction treatment, recovery support, harm reduction services, primary healthcare, or other services or supports they need upon release from jail or prison, or that provide any of these services or supports.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has applied for a grant being offered through the NC Department of Public Safety. If awarded, the grant will fund a limited MAT program for incarcerated persons and will provide for some support once the person leaves the jail setting. It is anticipated that the substance abuse coordinator position requested in the Dogwood Grant will assist in coordinating and connecting the client to services. The coordinator will also be involved in data collection and monitoring.
If the Sheriff is not successful with the grant, the requested program through Dogwood could still assist in connecting clients to services once released from jail.
It is believed that there are other capacity-building opportunities. The program will work with Jackson County Departments, non-profits, and other stakeholder groups to improve an integrated approach to addressing substance abuse disorders. Action plans will be facilitated and created.
All new programs and approaches to addressing substance abuse disorders will be monitored to track community impacts of the coordinated efforts.