The Northeast Kentucky Substance Use Response Coalitionhas been named the Outstanding Rural Health Program of 2021 by the National Rural Health Association as part of its annual Rural Health Awards, given to individuals and organizations in rural health care who have “dedicated their time and talents to improving the health and well-being of others,” NRHA says.
Founded in 2018, NKSURC is a formal network of health care and social service organizations that represents 18 counties and is focused on building a community-based approach to address the region’s opioid crisis. The organization aims to create educational, clinical, and preventive interventions for those who struggle with substance use disorder.
The Coalition’s activities have included: expanding/implementing medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder within four rural health clinics; establishing a series of MAT trainings and a MAT mentorship program for local health care providers; delivering prevention education presentations to hundreds of young students; distributing naloxone (an opioid overdose-reversing medication) and training community members on its use; and creating a jail reentry program called First Day Forward, which pairs incarcerated individuals with a trusted peer recovery support specialist for in-jail programming and post-release linkages to treatment and recovery resources.
Coalition members include St. Claire HealthCare in Morehead and its hosted Northeast Kentucky Area Health Education Center (AHEC), Achieving Recovery Together, the Clark County Health Department, Comprehend Inc., the Gateway District Health Department, the Kentucky Rural Healthcare Information Organization, Pathways Inc. and Tri-State Primary Care.
“We are extremely honored to accept this award,” said KaLeigh Hemminger, the Northeast Kentucky AHEC’s outreach services coordinator and director of the Coalition. “When it comes to the work we do, we have a saying within our Coalition: ‘if we can reach just one person, help one person, this is all worth it.’ To know our efforts are now being recognized on a national scale, and that other health care organizations may observe and model the types of programming we do, that adds another level to the impact we can have in addressing this epidemic.”