BY HANNAH HYAT
Salisbury University has been rewarded $200,000 to help combat the Eastern Shore’s opioid crisis.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gifted the university a $200,000 federal grant. Their goal is to bring together regional agencies and their efforts to help overcome the growing crisis.
The grant will specifically be used to construct the Stepping Stones to Progress Consortium. The project will focus on seven rural high-risk counties on the Shore: Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset and Worcester Counties.
SU Social Work Director Dr. Deborah Mathews believes the partnership will reduce opioid-related fatalities by educating the public.
“We hope to help reduce opioid overdoses and deaths by creating a partnership that will strengthen our ability to address both prevention and treatment education,” Mathews said.
Mathews is leading the effort alongside Assistant Professor of Community Health in the School of Health Sciences, Dr. Sherry Maykrantz.
Mathews hopes to officiate the association with an agreement between the partnering organizations.
The partnering organizations include SU, Caroline County Public Schools, Eastern Shore Psychological Services, McCready Health and the Worcester County Health Department.
The fast-growing nature of the opioid crisis inspired Mathews to take action against the cause.
“Governor Hogan has declared opioid use as a State of Emergency in Maryland,” Mathews said. “SU would like to be part of the solution to this emergency.”
The professors are hopeful others will become involved as the project grows.
“We are excited to collaborate with so many professionals in the community; we all have the same goal: to promote and protect the health of people,” said Maykrantz. “As health education specialists, we analyze the socioeconomic, behavioral, biological, environmental and other factors that impact population health such as opioid use.”
The consortium will complete a regional needs assessment that will lead to the development of strategic, workforce and sustainability plans. Monthly meetings and two regional summits will be held at the facility.
This fall’s summit plans to include focus groups, with key stakeholders from the target counties. The results of the focus groups will be distributed at the summit next summer. The findings also will be shared throughout the region.
Mathews said though the process is new, she is planning to begin meetings by late fall.
“At this point, the grant is too new to have produced anything to report,” Mathews said. “Our goal is to develop a regional consortium, which has yet to meet. In the near future, we will have the first consortium meeting and begin the planning for a regional summit later this fall.”
HHS has already rewarded over $1 billion in opioid-related grants to help combat the crisis ravaging the nation.
The Health Resources and Services Administration also donated $19 million to 95 organizations nationwide.
HRSA is the federal agency improving access to healthcare services for people who are uninsured.
Mathews said it is too early to announce possible volunteer positions, but faculty would love to see students involved.
“Faculty always hope to include students in grant activities where possible, but it is too soon to say any more,” Mathews said.
Featured photos by Salisbury University’s Office of Public Relations.