WVSOM promotes opioid toolkit amidst National Prevention Week

National Prevention Week is an annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of mental and/or substance use disorders.

The observance, taking place May 13 to 19, is hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a federal funding agency for substance abuse. Throughout the week, communities and organizations across the country try to raise awareness about the importance of substance use prevention and positive mental health, according to SAMHSA.

The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s (WVSOM) Center for Rural and Community Health (CRCH) has maintained a close relationship with SAMHSA in the past year. WVSOM’s CRCH helps serve the needs of West Virginians in conjunction with assisting and working with community-based organizations. The CRCH is a resource center designed to help improve the health and well-being of West Virginians. The two organizations worked closely through the creation and development of an opioid toolkit, designed to bring awareness to the rising epidemic in the state and offer resources for those trying to recover.

After months of discussion to create a useful resource, the “Prescription Opioid and Heroin Awareness Toolkit” came to be, in collaboration with the Community Addressing Prescription Drug Epidemic (CARxE) Coalition, according to Haylee Heinsberg, a CRCH health education coordinator who helped oversee the creation of the toolkit.

“We are trying to make people more aware of this disease, community resources and the places to get help and to at least start a conversation about how to improve this epidemic,” Heinsberg said of the resource tool.

The toolkit was presented at the West Virginia Rural Health Conference last fall, and as a result, neighboring counties started expressing an interest in the toolkit. During that time, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also started using it as a model for other areas of the state — hoping to replicate the toolkit in all 55 counties.

This educational effort has now gained national exposure as well. Heinsberg and Drema Mace, Ph.D., the executive director of the CRCH, presented “An Opioid Toolkit: A Rural Community Education Project” at the National Rural Health Association’s annual conference on May 11 in New Orleans, La. The toolkit, along with a provider packet and a series of public service announcements, all come together as one, a synergistic effort for people to see there are others dealing with the same situation, Heinsberg said.

“If our toolkit can be a guide to open conversation of coming together as a community in order to make a positive change — and provide support to a caregiver, loved one and family members, to reinforce that people are trying to get clean and sober — then we can start to make a dent in the problem,” she said. “Ninety-one people a day die from opioids. If there was an easy solution it would’ve been fixed a long time ago.”

Date Added: 
Monday, May 14, 2018