Jan 08, 2018

Rural West Virginia Communities in Crisis-An Opioid Epidemic

Problem Statement: In 2016, West Virginia had eight hundred and forty-four overdose deaths. West Virginia ranks among the top five states with the highest overdose deaths in the nation. In addition to high overdose mortality, the opioid epidemic is responsible for poor health outcomes, including: increased rates of hepatitis C, neonatal abstinence syndrome, wound abscesses, and pericarditis. Lack of funding and resources creates barriers to opioid abuse prevention and treatment.

Approach: Build a Harm Reduction Program with syringe access, including linkage between community partners and stakeholders, to decrease the effects of the opioid epidemic in our community. Facilitate harm reduction training for 15 West Virginia counties with the National Harm Reduction Coalition and NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Engaging community partners and stakeholders, and providing specialized training, leads to securing the funding and supplies to initiate a successful Harm Reduction Program.

Products/Outcome: On April 12, 2017, the Berkeley County Health Department opened a comprehensive Harm Reduction Program with syringe access. The program includes: safer injection practice education and supplies, Narcan training and supply, family planning services, STI, HIV, and hepatitis testing, peer coaches on site, and health care referral. The forming of a Regional Harm Reduction Coalition is in process to share resources and leverage funding sources.

Implications: Nurses emerge as community leaders to develop programs and connect community partners, which reduces stigma, builds trust, and actively works to reduce the effects the opioid epidemic causes in the community. Formation of Harm Reduction Coalitions strengthen rural networks and create partnerships that work towards the development of a statewide coalition.