Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that the Central Vermont Medical Center Inc. in Berlin, Vt., and Connecticut Valley Addiction Recovery Inc. in Windsor, Vt., are each receiving federal grants of $1 million to target rural addiction challenges.
The grants are from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration’s Rural Communities Opioid Response (RCORP) Program Implementation account, which Leahy established and shaped in the annual Appropriations process. Leahy sent a letter of support for the CVMC project with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) in May. Leahy has led in this and in other ways in focusing on rural needs in confronting opioid addiction.
Each RCORP-Implementation grant recipient will use the funding to enhance and expand service delivery for substance use disorder (SUD), including opioid use disorder (OUD), in rural communities. Awardees will work with rural communities to implement a set of core SUD and OUD prevention, treatment and recovery activities grounded in evidence-based or promising practice models, which can be tailored to communities’ unique needs.
In his Appropriations leadership role, Leahy authored and included provisions in the fiscal year 2018 Labor-HHS Appropriations Act to provide $130 million in new funding to establish the Rural Communities Opioid Reponses Program through HRSA. A year later Leahy secured $110 million more for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program.
Leahy said: “The isolation and uncertainty brought by the coronavirus pandemic present new challenges to Vermonters struggling with addiction. As we seek to support Vermonters through the pandemic, it’s critically important to invest in lifesaving opioid prevention programs that are tailored to rural areas. Every community and every family has been touched in some way by the struggle of addiction. Rural communities, like those across Vermont, have been at the front lines of the opioid epidemic. These are communities that face unique challenges in confronting this crisis. And Vermont, like so many times before, is leading the nation in addressing this crisis.”
Sanders said: “Vermonters in every corner of our state have been touched by the opioid epidemic, but the devastation is particularly apparent in our rural areas. While Vermont has made real progress, those gains have been threatened by the struggles and social isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Tragically, we are now seeing rates of substance use and drug-related deaths on the rise. That is why this funding, which will improve the availability of lifesaving substance use and addiction treatment to those who need it, is so critically important.”
Welch said: “The coronavirus pandemic has made it even harder for Vermonters struggling with opioid addiction to receive treatment. Our first responders, health care providers, treatment facilities and service organizations on the front lines of the opioid epidemic have continued to do amazing work to help Vermonters, even during this unprecedented pandemic. But they can’t do it alone. I was proud to support this additional funding that will provide them the resources they need to continue fighting the crisis head on.”
Leahy also secured an additional $110 million in fiscal year 2020 Appropriations for this multi-year initiative that addresses barriers to access in rural communities related to SUD, including OUD. With unique challenges like access to treatment and prevention centers, rural communities have been devastated by the opioid epidemic with greater rates of lethal overdoses than their urban counterparts. Altogether, Leahy has included $350 million over the past three fiscal years for the RCOR program.
Vermont has led the nation in confronting this crisis in rural America with new and innovative approaches like the Hub and Spoke model, which takes a system-wide approach to addressing addiction. The University of Vermont has been a leading contributor to much of this pioneering work across the state and has taken their findings to other rural communities across the country that seek innovative, successful ways to deploy new federal resources provided in recent years to combat the opioid epidemic. Leahy drew on this innovative and collaborative approach in creating the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program.