Southern Arizona hospital coalition addresses opioid misuse in rural areas

SAHA.jpgA coalition of five independent Southern Arizona hospitals this week secured a federal grant to diminish opioid misuse and dependence across rural communities in Southern Arizona.

The Rural Health Network Development Planning Grant, which provides about $100,000 in support to the effort, comes through the federal Health Resources & Services Administration. The grant aims to:

  • achieve efficiencies by collaborating with behavioral health and police departments in rural communities
  • expand coordination of quality health care services by identifying shared communication strategies tailored for rural communities
  • strengthen the rural health care system in Southern Arizona by identifying opportunities for the Alliance to better address regional opioid misuse through the implementation of innovative collaborations and strategies

Formed in summer 2015, the Alliance consists of Northern Cochise Community Hospital, Copper Queen Community Hospital, Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center, and Benson Hospital. Tucson Medical Center is the founding member.

“Our Alliance has already demonstrated we can leverage existing relationships within our network to improve the care we deliver,” said Roland Knox, the chief executive officer of Northern Cochise Community Hospital who will lead the grant project. “Although this is a national struggle, Arizona has the fifth highest opioid prescription rate in the nation, and this award will allow us to work in a more coordinated way to improve outcomes for those grappling with this issue.”

Hope Thomas, the network director for the Alliance and TMC’s director of community programs, noted the challenges in rural communities are magnified because of more limited access to health and social services. Thomas noted an average of 26 percent of adults living in Southern Arizona’s rural counties report current prescription drug misuse and fatal opioid overdose in rural areas is as high or even higher than rates in metropolitan areas.

The grant award runs through May 2018.

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