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AR Gets 4 Million to Help Residents Seeking Substance Abuse Treatment / Public News Service

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous challenges for individuals seeking help for substance abuse. (Adobe Stock)

August 10, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The federal Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded Arkansas $4 million in grants to help combat the opioid epidemic.

Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas each received $1 million in funding for drug-abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services in the region.

Tom Engels, administrator with the HRSA, said it’s critical that people seeking treatment for addiction have resources available to them — even in the midst of a global public health crisis.

“Because of COVID, we’ve had a lot of individuals that have not been able to get access to their care or access to their health care professionals to talk about the problems they’re having and their treatment issues,” Engels said.

According to 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of the state’s 444 reported drug overdose deaths involved opioids. There are some early reports the coronavirus pandemic is contributing to a recent spike in overdose deaths nationwide.

Engels said the funds will allow for expanded tele-health services for substance-abuse treatment.

“And through a tele-health system, a patient can have a chance to talk to a doctor, talk to a health-care professional and get the counseling that they might need as they are dealing with addiction issues,” he said.

And he noted the effort is part of a nationwide push to support treatment and recovery centers during the pandemic. Engels said this year his agency has awarded $89 million to communities.

“So there’s two different funding sources that we announced: one is through the rural communities’ opioid response program, and the other one is through our opioid impact and families support program,” Engles said

Experts say COVID-19-related social isolation, job loss and stress can lead to increases in substance misuse, addiction, and relapse. Residents seeking help with substance abuse can call the Arkansas Mental Health and Addiction Support Line at 1-844-763-0198.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service – AR

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