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$6.6 million Federal Grant Establishes Rural Center of Excellence on Substance Use Disorders

Building on current strategies to address opioid addiction, the University of Vermont and the University of Vermont Medical Center will work together to establish a Rural Center of Excellence on Substance Use Disorders using a newly awarded  $6.6 million federal grant. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) announced the news Thursday saying the two organizations will “build on their innovative work to combat addiction and apply those lessons to rural communities around the country.”

Vermont has led the nation in confronting this crisis in rural America with groundbreaking approaches like the Hub and Spoke model, which takes a system-wide approach to addressing addiction.

“The funds that will come to our communities will support the physician faculty of UVM Medical Center and UVM in leveraging evidence-based tools to expand opioid use disorder treatment capacity and reduce the impact of this disease on our rural communities, which have been disproportionately impacted,” says Stephen Leffler, MD, interim president, UVM Medical Center. 

Related: Reducing stigma when treating patients with opioid use disorder

The grant funding will further this work by creating a UVM Center on Rural Addiction dedicated to identifying, translating, disseminating, and implementing Hub and Spoke, Community Reinforcement Approach and other evidence-based methods to address the opioid epidemic in rural communities. The Center of Excellence at UVM will implement the rollout of three strategic priorities including surveillance, education and outreach, and technical assistance to rural communities.

Related:  Why did opioid overdose deaths drop 50% in Chittenden County?

The UVM Medical Center has expanded access to medically assisted treatment (MAT) in Chittenden County, including 50 federally waivered providers who can offer this treatment to patients. MAT is available in the emergency department, all adult and pediatric primary care practices, palliative care service, OBGYN, addiction treatment, pain management and urgent care.

“There is effectively no wait list in Chittenden County – with a new program in our Emergency Department to provide buprenorphine on demand for patients seeking care,” says Leffler.

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy authored and included provisions in the fiscal year 2019 Labor-HHS Appropriations Act to provide $20 million in new funding to establish three “Rural Centers of Excellence on Substance Use Disorders” around the country.

“Every community and every family has been touched in some way by the struggle of addiction,” says Leahy. “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. It is my hope that this new center will help rural communities halt the scourge of opioid and other addictions in their tracks.”

If you or a loved one are using substances, we and our partners are here to help you into recovery.  Please seek help, please talk to your health care provider and please reach out.  There is no wait list for treatment. We’re here to help.

This story was reported by Emily McManamy, with the UVM Health Network.