The University of Alabama’s School of Social Work, which oversees a trio of state-focused behavioral health projects, has been given a $3.2 million grant to address the Yellowhammer state’s opioid crisis.
The four-year project, dubbed “Project FREEDOM: First Responder Expansion of Education and Distribution of Overdose Medication,” will focus on first responders take place throughout the following counties: Blount, Cullman, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Jackson, Lawrence, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, St. Clair, Shelby, Walker, Winston, Jefferson and Tuscaloosa.
The project will be funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“Alabama’s first responders have a critical role in the battle against the opioid overdose epidemic,” said Dr. David L. Albright, UA’s Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health Research and Vital primary investigator.
He added, “In this project, we will work to support our first responders by studying burnout, fatigue, and secondary traumatic stress among emergency medical service workers and municipality and volunteer fire personnel, and develop outreach and training related to the experiences of our first responders, including learning communities on opioid overdose within the 16-county area.”
According to a press release, “first responders will receive training and education on opioid overdoses and reversal, opioid safety and occupational hazards related to opioid exposure.” The project is also set to provide education to the “general public about opioid safety and the Good Samaritan Law.”
“In addition to first responders, the project will have a focus on healthcare provider training related to opioid overdose dangers, overdose surveillance data in their county, and treatment and recovery options for their patient population,” said Shanna McIntosh, UA Vital project director.
She added, “It is important for Alabamians to understand the dangers of exposure overdose, proper use and disposal of prescribed opioids, and the Good Samaritan Law, which is in place to encourage bystanders to take action when someone is in need. A targeted media campaign will run statewide, and community education forums will be held in the 16-county area. Community trainings will cover the dangers of high toxicity opioids, opioid prescription safety and Mental Health First Aid.”
Project FREEDOM is the third state-focused project the Vital Team is overseeing. The Vital Team recently began work on a state-funded project to reduce infant mortality rates in Alabama.
Federal health authorities have reported there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, for a rate of 21.7 per 100,000 people. The state of Alabama had more than 5,100 overdoses from 2006 through 2014.
Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.