$10M grant helping centers in Southeast MO to fight opioid crisis

$10M grant helping centers in Southeast MO to fight opioid crisis
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanuinetti joined officials at the Human Service Center (HSC) in Peoria (Source: Pixabay)

MISSOURI (KFVS) - For the second year in a row, the state of Missouri will get a $10 million dollar grant to help fight the opioid epidemic.

Local recovery centers in the Southeast region are using that money hire more employees and make more opiate treatment programs available to those needing help the most.

Ashley Naeger has been a clinician with the Gibson Recovery Center in Cape Girardeau for years, and says the programs being funded through Missouri's State Target Response to the opioid crisis is broadening access to patients who are uninsured and in turn, will help save more lives.

"I think we're finally taking action and talking to the people in the trenches who understand what works and what doesn't work and we are running with it," Naeger said. "We're helping people. The number of overdoses will slowly decrease and I think one big reason is that of this program."

Chief Operating Officer Ryan Essex, says the funding has also allowed the Gibson Center offices in the region to hire more recovering opiate users as peer specialist who can act as a new type of support system for new patients.

"They can be seen almost as a kindred spirit," Essex said. "Someone who has been through this and has come out on the other side and now let me help you walk through it as well, so that has been a real powerful thing."

Naeger says the funding has also made the medication first method available to more patients which helps with withdrawal symptoms first and then moves on to other types of treatment.

"So what we are doing is we are able to help the physical part and then we can help mental, emotional, spiritual and all of that so then you can make it for the long run."

One of Naeger's favorite success stories is about a Father who has been a long time abuser and has tried several different treatment options. Neager says on option his family was avoiding was the medication first method but after discussing the research and side effects of several medication options they tried it out

"Two weeks ago, he celebrated being one-year substance-free, is in recovery and just seeing the changes," Neager said. "His children's lives are improving because his life is improving. He has a better relationship with his parents. He is a better employer. Everything is benefiting in his life and it's a ripple effect."

Essex says the portion of funding they received from the state grant led to a 15 percent increase in the number of opioid-addicted clients they were able to help last year, but that they still can't help everyone who gives their centers a call.

"This funding has been tremendous for us," he said. "But the truth is it's a fraction of what is truly needed to combat this issue. We're still in the middle of this crisis. I think it's important to remember that."

The current providers in the SEMO area are:

- Gibson Recovery Center (6 area locations)
- Southeast Missouri Behavioral Health (14 area locations)

- Family Counseling Center (1 area location)

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