The Virginia Rural Health Association has received $1 million to address substance abuse in Franklin, Martinsville/Henry, and Patrick counties.
The association is one of 65 grantees nationwide to receive funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) – Implementation Awards.
VRHA will use this funding to establish the Virginia Piedmont Harm Reduction Coalition, which will work to expand Comprehensive Harm Reduction programs to address SUD in Franklin, Henry, and Patrick counties and the City of Martinsville. Emphasis for the project will be a partnership with the Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition, which will allow VHRC to extend its mobile services into the region.
Comprehensive Harm Reduction (CHR) is a set of public health strategies intended to reduce the negative impact of drug use including HIV, hepatitis C, other infections, overdose, and death among people who are unable or not ready to stop using drugs. CHR includes the distribution of sterile and disposal of used hypodermic needles and syringes, education, referral to drug treatment, testing, and an array of other health services.
The Piedmont region has experienced a disproportionate share of overdoses related to SUD with all localities experiencing more overdoses than both the state and national rates. Of particular concern is how quickly the overdose mortality rate is increasing. The NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis shows that while Virginia and national rates rose slightly from 2015-2019 (8.5% and 9.3% respectively), Martinsville, the core of the service area, had an increase in the drug overdose mortality rate of 24.1% in the previous five years.