(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A local not-for-profit will begin investing $1 million to fight addiction and drug abuse in rural northwest Missouri. Last year opioid overdoses killed nearly 1,100 Missourians. Northwest Health Services is working to reduce that number.
Nearly 71,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year.
Health officials believe the COVID-19 crisis could drive deaths even higher.
"The number of people we are seeing is up by about 20-25 percent,” Terry Petersen, Director of Behavioral Health at Northwest Health Services.
A $1 million dollar federal grant to fight addiction couldn't have come at a better time for Northwest Health Services.
"Nationwide we have seen addiction increase 25-30 percent,” Petersen said.
The not-for-profit won a federal grant funded over the next 3 years to treat and deliver substance and opioid use disorders.
The grant will help set up programs in Atchison, Holt, Nodaway, Grundy and Livingston counties.
"We are just really excited about hopefully being able to make a difference in these counties and communities and address this need which because of the pandemic has kind of been put on the back-burner a little bit,” Petersen said.
With that money Northwest Health Services hopes to replicate its Medication-Assisted Treatment or MAT program in the five county area.
MAT combines counseling, therapy and medication to help people deal with substance use disorders.
“We serve more than 200 patients already. We have peer support, recovery services, we have counseling services available, additional community health worker support for these folks,” Petersen said.
Northwest Health provides the services already in St. Joseph, but once they started the grant process last year, they realized that it's what rural northwest Missouri needs too.
“There's an acute shortage of providers that are able to provide Medication-Assisted Treatment," Petersen said.
It's going to take a lot to get a MAT program like the one here in St. Joseph, set up in other counties.
"We are up to six providers within our program and there was a lot of hesitancy to begin with and boy once we got the first couple in it's just grown exponentially,” Petersen said.
Based on the feedback from hospitals, first responders, county health officials and surveys from 2800 individuals in those counties, it's what they need.
"A year's worth of hard work already and then another three more incredibly challenging years but it's the good kind of challenge."
Northwest Health will officially get the first part of the grant money on September 1.