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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Community partners in Essex, Orleans, awarded grant to battle opioid epidemic

NEWPORT — Local community partners in Caledonia, Essex, Orleans, Franklin, and Grand Isle counties are energized to address the local opioid epidemic, thanks to a $200,000 one-year federal planning grant.

Several community organizations around the state came together two months ago to submit a federal planning grant application to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to fund a community process that would help to combat the opioid problem.

Impressed with the group’s submission, HRSA not only gave the communities the grant as initially requested, but provided the group with additional funds to realize their goals.

The request was only one of two submissions funded in Vermont and one of only 95 grants awarded nationally.

The Northeast Kingdom Consortium consists of the following partners:

The Community Restorative Justice Center, Vermont Cares, Northern Counties Health Care, Inc., Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, North Country Hospital, Northeast Kingdom Learning Services, Northeast Kingdom Community Action, and Kingdom Recovery Center, and the Department of Health St. Johnsbury Office.

These organizations will be meeting regularly over the next year to develop a plan to identify gaps and services related to opioid prevention, treatment, and recovery in their respective regions.

“This grant is great news for the NEK, particularly the communities of Essex County,” Shawn P. Tester, CEO of Northern Counties Health Care said. “It will enable us to build on our already strong foundation in addressing the opiate crisis. I am especially excited about the opportunities to collaboratively develop prevention strategies, to really turn the curve on addiction.”

Community Justice Centers in both regions have been designated as lead agencies to facilitate this process in each district.

This planning year will utilize a restorative process to engage the community in an on-going dialogue to learn from many diverse groups and voices across the region, including individuals currently in long-term recovery.

The group says other agencies are also coming on board as the grant progresses.

“This grant, and what it will make possible, are proof of what can happen when our community partners come together to take on a challenge as serious as the opioid epidemic,” Senator Patrick Leahy said.

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