University of Maryland Extension (UME) faculty and partners have been awarded a federal grant of over $1M to help rural communities deal with the growing opioid issues throughout the state, ranked among the top five by the National Institute on Drug Abuse for opioid-related overdose deaths.
Working with UMD’s Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) and the School of Public Health, along with the social science research firm MayaTech and the Maryland Rural Health Association, UME educators will provide training programs to strengthen rural communities’ ability to recognize, understand and respond to opioid misuse and other behavioral health issues.
“One of the things we noted while conducting a needs assessment was gaps in understanding the opioid crisis and available resources to help or get information,” said Jinhee Kim, professor and leader of UME’s Family & Consumer Sciences Program, as well as principal investigator on the grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Over the next two years, UMD will train 120 educators, along with 500 community leaders and service providers, in the evidence-based program Mental Health First Aid. Several organizations, including the Rural Maryland Council, the Mental Health Association of Maryland, the Maryland Association of Conservation Districts and the Maryland Department of Agriculture, have already committed to assist with the effort.
“The misuse and opioid addiction is a national public health concern that kills over 130 people every day nationwide,” said Ali Hurtado, co-principal investigator and assistant professor of family science. “Our study team will collaborate with local partners that have the expertise and are trusted in the community.”
The project will also introduce a proven prevention program, Botvin LifeSkills, to middle-school-aged children to reduce their susceptibility to substance abuse. Training will be provided for 40 educators and 650 students, as well as parents or caregivers.
The team will also create an advisory group on rural Maryland’s opioid issues with a virtual network of extension and community educators, partners, and local practitioners. This will include virtual trainings for educators and practitioners, along with webinars for individuals, families and communities.
“Extension’s role is very important because we are a trusted source of health and wellness information within our communities,” said Kim. “Great work has been and is being done in the opioid crisis here in Maryland, and we’re helping and supporting those programs by building out the capacity of rural Maryland for a comprehensive approach.”