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Ferris, Regional Health Concerns Secure $200K Grant for Collaborative Opioid Response

Ferris State UniversityAssistant Professor of Public Health Fathima Wakeel is a contributor in a collaborative effort to combat opioid drug use, abuse and misuse in west-central Michigan. The consortium, Ferris State University, Inc. received a $200,000 planning grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, to support planning efforts for a response program in the next year.

A task force, whose members include Ferris State University faculty and staff, has received federal funding to support an assessment of the existing resources in Mecosta County for opioid misuse and abuse prevention to create a strategic plan to bolster the effort, if necessary.

The Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, awarded $200,000 to the consortium, as part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, one of six awards made to Michigan applicants, and one of 120 across the country.

Assistant Professor of Public Health Fathima Wakeel said members of the local consortium, including Spectrum Health Hospital-Big Rapids, Community Mental Health for Central Michigan and the District 10 Health Department, responded quickly when notified of a funding opportunity.

“We were able to assemble our application and were pleased by its success, since we received the amount requested,” Wakeel said. “This coalition has been meeting for nearly two years, and can advance its efforts in the next year, thanks to this funding.”

Wakeel said that their regional opioid abuse prevention network will soon produce a memorandum of understanding so that each partner has clearly defined roles and responsibilities as they move toward a pilot response program.

“After that work, a gap analysis must be made to identify resources already in place, compared to what we hope to make available to the community,” Wakeel said. “Then we will study best practices in other areas, produce a strategic plan to advance our local offerings, develop a health education curriculum and assess potential staffing needs, and finally determine how we best go forward, as the grant cycle ends on May 31, 2020.”

Network members are also likely to solicit community involvement in this process, which would include a series of town hall discussions to increase awareness of the collaboration, and the pilot testing of their response plan in the community.

“The HRSA has grant funding to support the implementation of community response plans, and we are likely to pursue those resources when they become available,” Wakeel said. “It is our hope to limit opioid misuse and abuse, in part by increasing access to mental health services, seeing that primary caregivers are an integral part of the prevention effort, and by making it easier to dispose of unused opioids.”