A $1 million grant awarded to the Warren Coalition over the next three years will go a long way to helping extend addiction treatment, prevention and recovery programs around the region.
The grant, awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, will start funding area programs as of Sept. 1, said Christa Shifflett, executive director of the Warren Coalition.
The coalition is the lead agency for the Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, a partnership among four substance use coalitions in the Lord Fairfax Planning District, which covers Winchester and the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren.
Already offering various programs and aid to individuals around the region, the Warren Coalition will be able to use the additional funding to extend its reach in and around Warren and Page counties, Shifflett said.
The timing of the grant funding is especially useful during the COVID-19 pandemic, Shifflett said in a Saturday news release announcing the grant.
“COVID-19 has unfortunately created the perfect conditions for relapse, overdoses, and new people initiating opiate use as people are stressed and isolated,” she said. “We are on track to surpass the record number of overdose deaths (40) set in 2017 for the Lord Fairfax Planning District and resources were desperately needed to help turn the tide on the resurging opioid epidemic.”
One big way the grant will help is by giving residents in Front Royal greater access to in-county services that they previously had to drive to Winchester or Woodstock to receive.
“We’ll hire a treatment team for Warren and it’ll help boost their services in Page too, who didn’t have services either,” Shifflett said in a Tuesday phone call.
There’s money in the grant to help with the cost of medical treatment as well as the cost of transportation to and from medical appointments, she said.
Shifflett said the grant will pick up where another grant helping support opiate awareness leaves off when it ends this year.
One of the ways she said she hopes to expand services in the community is by helping change the language used to describe people dealing with drug addiction. Words carry a stigma, she said, and common usage of terms like “drug abuse” can give misleading ideas of the challenges that people face when they become addicted to a substance, such as a prescribed medication.
Their campaign to combat stigma will start broadly across the community with how language prevents people from wanting to seek treatment, she said.
Funding from the grant is intended to provide a safe, permanent drug drop box at the Front Royal Police Department, which Shifflett said is the only department in the region without a drop box where the community can dispose of unused or expired medications.
The grant also will fund a reentry case manager to help inmates leaving the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail in continuing their addiction treatment following an overdose. The case manager will also help overdose survivors meet their basic needs and try to reduce recidivism rates, “So that they have their best opportunity,” Shifflett said.
The Warren Coalition is one of three agencies in Virginia and 89 nationwide that each received a $1 million grant this year. In Virginia, Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance in Tappahannock and STOP Inc. in Virginia Beach will receive grant funding.
The grant covers three years and will be allocated to the Warren Coalition in thirds each September, Shifflett said.
“We’re excited and definitely going to hit the ground running as fast as we can."