From major cities to rural areas, opioid abuse has infiltrated communities and devastated lives throughout our society. Across the nation, national opioid settlements are enhancing opportunities to provide support in aiding community partners and elevate community awareness. CohnReznick suggests five considerations to help ensure that communities are effective in organizing the fight against opioid abuse.
1. Consider the holistic needs of the target population. Meaningful change for individuals suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) requires a holistic approach. The specific needs for each person will vary. We recommend considering the flexibility to provide services, in addition to medication assisted treatment and distribution of naloxone, such as:
a. Sheltering/housing services for those experiencing homelessness which may include short-term housing for persons that are waiting for available space at an in-patient rehab facility.
b. Transportation support which can include local transportation (e.g., to and from appointments) as well as out of state transportation as needed (e.g., for admission to an out of state rehab facility).
c. Assistance with documentation replacement and legal/court fees. There may be a need for support in replacing vital documents (e.g., driver’s license, birth certificate, etc.) required for admission to an in-patient rehab facility, and also for covering legal fees or completing court mandated training to reduce the likelihood of relapse or recidivism.
d. Counseling and peer-support services.
2. Leverage existing partners. Analyze existing governmental and nongovernmental partners providing similar services needed to meet opioid fund objectives to determine whether additional funding could be used to expand services. Providing funding to increase pre-existing community capacity is more likely to provide the intended outcomes faster than implementing a brand-new initiative from the ground up. While these funds cannot supplant current initiatives, they can expand the scope of services.
3. Leverage the national opioid settlement funding in accordance with approved abatement strategies to both address the impacts of the opioid epidemic as well as the community’s strategic plan. Communities receiving funds should ensure they understand all the requirements set forth in the settlement agreement. Communities should also ensure they have controls in place to clearly demonstrate that the funding used is supplemental to existing funds rather than supplanting them.
4. Identify opportunities to reduce the administrative burden of managing opioid settlement funds. Consider upfront how the funding you receive will be managed and reported on. With a clear plan in mind when developing the application, the subsequent application opportunities to apply can easily be updated and resubmitted for future application periods. Establish metrics and reporting at the onset of the project. Work with the fund administrator to establish metrics and reporting prior to disbursing received funds for project work. Consider existing databases and tracking systems that can be used to develop automated reports or dashboards.
5. Develop a transition plan. Recipients of these funds should plan for transition prior to the end of the availability of funding. The transition plan may include (1) identifying an alternate source of funds to continue providing services and/or (2) transitioning existing clients served by these programs to other partners to help ensure a cohesive continuum of care.
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