Four Agencies Approved For Opioid Funding

by Ryan Bray
Sheila House of Behavioral Health Innovators addresses the Orleans Board of Health June 20 about the nonprofit’s $9,000 request for opioid abatement funding.  RYAN BRAY PHOTO Sheila House of Behavioral Health Innovators addresses the Orleans Board of Health June 20 about the nonprofit’s $9,000 request for opioid abatement funding. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS – More than $100,000 in opioid abatement funding has tentatively been approved for four local organizations that applied through the town’s board of health.

The board on June 20 unanimously approved allocating $107,000 in abatement money, which came to the town by way of a federal settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors in 2022.

Four applications for funding were submitted to the health department ahead of the June 20 meeting. Those included a request for $40,000 from the Orleans Fire Department, $7,000 from AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, $9,000 from Behavioral Health Innovators and $50,000 over five years from the Community Development Partnership.

The funding was approved with the condition there will be administrative review of the requests before the money is allocated. The town currently has $43,000 in abatement funding available, with an additional $9,000 due to come to the town next month.

The fire department’s $40,000 represents the largest single-year request among the four applicants. Fire Chief Geof Deering said Monday that the money would be used to provide training for department staff on how to better detect substance abuse signs and symptoms. Staff would also be trained on how to educate others in the community on detecting signs of substance abuse, Deering said.

“We saw it as an opportunity to strengthen our education and training in a couple different ways in relation to overdoses and mental health issues that are associated with substance abuse,” he said.

The funding would cover between eight and 12 hours of training for each member of the department, which Deering said is needed for fire officials to more adequately address the opioid issue locally.

“There’s a number of gaps related to these challenges,” he said. “But in our industry, the level of training is probably not where it could or should be. We’re trying to up our game, if you will, to try to prepare people as much as possible to help people out in the field.”

The health board last week deliberated how it would portion out its funding over time. Through 2038, the town will receive a total of $158,251.97, according to Health Agent Alex Fitch.

“It’s up to the board,” she said. “We really have creative license here.”

“We said we’d be supportive of the fire department, obviously,” board member John Kanaga said of the department’s $40,000 ask. “But that’s just the first year.”

Applicants can reapply annually for additional funding, Fitch said. Deering said the department may come back to the board with a request for more abetment funding in the future, but said that those requests would likely be for less.

Heather Murphy, chief programs officer for AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, said her organization’s $7,000 request would be used to expand services around NARCAN education and training. It would also provide additional funding for the nonprofit's post-overdose program as well as fentanyl test strips and NaloxBoxes, boxes fixed outside of public buildings that carry free doses of NARCAN.

The $9,000 for Behavioral Health Innovators would go to support two of its existing programs. The nonprofit runs an alternative peer group through two campuses in Dennis and Orleans that offer free treatment for youth and young adults ages 13 to 19 for a period of six months. Funding would also support the organization’s PASS (Positive Alternative to School Supports) program, which provides services including treatment and tutoring for students undergoing suspension from school.

“We would keep track of the data not only by town, but the number of kids per town and sort of what their success rates are,” Sheila House, who chairs the nonprofit’s board of directors, told the board of health last week.

Community Development Partnership would use its $50,000 over five years to help support programming at Canal House, the nonprofit’s affordable sober house on Canal Road. The house, which accommodates eight tenants, has offered assistance to 145 people transitioning out of treatment since it opened in 1998.

The partnership’s CEO, Jay Coburn, said the abatement money would help better support programming offered through Duffy Health Center and the Homeless Prevention Council designed to keep tenants on the path to sobriety and recovery.

“Rent does not cover the cost of that, so given that the vast majority of the residents there have had some impacts due to opioids, we thought it was an appropriate request to the town to use some of its opioid funds to support this program,” he said.

Health officials voiced support for all four applications at the June 20 meeting, with Fitch calling the requests “a good mix of ways to distribute the funds.”

“I’d say all four programs in front of us are worthy of our support,” board member John Smith said.

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