ULLIN, Il. (KFVS) - As the number of opioid deaths continues to rise in the Heartland, one local health agency is seeking help to combat the epidemic.
Southern Seven Health Department in Ullin, IL was accepted into the Overdose Prevention and Response Mentorship Program to implement programs and collect data related to opioid deaths.
In early February, Southern Seven was one of 19 local health department in the United State, and one of only three in Illinois to be accepted in this program.
Executive Director Rhonda Andrews-Ray said this assistance comes at critical time. “The perception in our region is that opioids are a significant problem,” Andrews-Ray said. Accurate opioid data is difficult to college in Southern Illinois, she said.
Southern Seven covers Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, and Union counties. With 65,000 people in the Southern Illinois region, this will help people who have prescription drug problems, substance use disorders and more.
“Their access to care down here is very limited. Southern Illinois has very poor health outcomes," Andrews-Ray said. "We really want to be able to help these people in a caring, non-judgmental way. We just want to see funding and services be provided in southern Illinois like they are in other places.”
This grant will help the the health department with more accurate, real-time data about opioid use and opioid deaths. Andrew-Ray hopes this grant will help secure additional funding in the future.
Right now Southern Seven is working with their mentor agency out of Ohio. Both organizations receive a $50,000 grant to start collecting data.
According to Andrews-Ray, the funding is from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) with support from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).