Establishes program to increase access to Peer Recovery Support and harm reduction services in Arkansas; a state where in the past three years drug deaths have increased by 17%* and during a time when those who struggle with substance use are at a higher risk due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
[FAYETTEVILLE, AR, April, 2020] – Matt Adams Foundation (MAF), a non-profit bringing innovative change in the field of harm reduction and recovery initiatives in Northwest Arkansas (NWA) is pleased to announce they are the recipients of a $79,000 grant endowed by The Cigna Foundation. These funds will support their Northwest Arkansas Opioid Response Project focusing on preventing substance use disorders in youth, reducing fatal overdoses, and increasing access to coordinated care for substance use recovery across the community.
In partnership with Ozark Guidance, the initiative funded through this grant will increase access to Peer Recovery Support Specialists (PRSS) in NWA for nights, weekends and moments of crisis. PRSS assists persons at high risk of substance use and/or mental health crisis with the navigation of multiple systems such as treatment, housing, transportation, supportive employment, supplemental benefits, and the building and rebuilding of natural supports. “Peer recovery support is vital for those who are seeking recovery, in recovery and need support after recovery,” said Katherine van den Bogert, program manager at the National Safety Council. “Drug overdose is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., but recovery is possible. We are excited that the Matt Adams Foundation has the financial support it needs to ensure people with substance use disorders receive the support they deserve so they can live their fullest lives.”
The grant comes at a time when aid for those struggling with substance use is that much more vital, with many being higher risk during the COVID-19 outbreak of not only of complications from the virus, but also of relapsing without their crucial support networks. While it is too early for conclusive data, experts across the field warn that the crisis could reverse recent strides made to combat the opioid epidemic. On March 24th, 2020, Dr. Nora Valkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), wrote: “As people across the U.S. and the rest of the world contend with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the research community should be alert to the possibility that it could hit some populations with substance use disorders (SUDs) particularly hard.”
“Cigna is committed to fighting the opioid crisis in our communities, which is why we are so proud to support the important work the Matt Adams Foundation is doing,” said Greg Allen, MidSouth market president, Cigna. “The Foundation shares our mission to help Arkansans who are struggling with opioid addiction, and this grant will enable even more people to start their journey to recovery.”
Additionally, this project will establish regular naloxone trainings in the community and increase access to MAF’s harm reduction program. Since its inception in March of 2019, Matt Adams Foundation for Opioid Recovery has trained and distributed Naloxone opioid overdose reversal kits for over 2,200 community members, including outfitting more than 20 police and fire departments across the region. Over 47 lives have been saved through the program, with many additional unreported positive outcomes. In receiving their largest grant to date, MAF seeks to double these numbers in the coming year.
“This grant is going to be life changing for so many struggling with addiction in NWA. When I was trying to get help and become clean it was hard to find the right resources. There was no one to help me and my family navigate the first days and weeks of this frightening time,” states Melissa Cole who is in recovery and now a Marketing and Harm Reduction Specialist at the Matt Adams Foundation. “It would have been instrumental in my recovery to speak to someone who could provide critical direction and give me hope for the future.” Cole believes continued care during recovery, especially in the beginning, is essential and this generous grant from Cigna Foundation is going to help provide that to residents in need in NWA.
This partnership with MAF and Ozark Guidance will extend community resources with proven efficacy in our communities. Libby Bier, Director of Substance Abuse and Recovery Services at Ozark Guidance / Arisa Health says, “We are excited about the opportunities this Cigna grant and MAF partnership offer. Having additional Peer Support Specialists on our team will allow us to reach more people with substance use disorders in our communities. Certified Peer Support Specialists receive formal training and combine that with their personal lived experience,” states Bier. “They can offer help and hope in a unique way that marries nicely with our counseling and medication services.”
Matt Adams Foundation is a non-profit working to combat the opioid epidemic in Northwest Arkansas and beyond. With a focus on prevention through education, life-saving harm reduction programs and improving access to, and effectiveness of, treatment for those seeking recovery, MAF has been recognized for innovative approaches and bringing positive change to the community. The Matt Adams Foundation was awarded the 2019 Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce’s Non-Profit of the Year.
* Source: https://www.americashealthrankings.org/learn/reports/2019-annual-report/state-summaries-arkansas