HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A new leader for the Great Rivers Regional System for Addiction Care at Marshall Health has been announced by Marshall University.
Tina L. Ramirez, the former director of multiple prevention and wellness initiatives at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, has been named as director. Ramirez said she has been on the job for a couple of months.
In a release by Marshall, the Great Rivers Regional System is a four-year project that is aiming to reduce opioid overdoses and deaths, improve access to treatment options, and reduce rising rates of HIV and hepatitis C infections in four West Virginia counties: Cabell, Jackson, Kanawha, and Putnam.
The system is funded by a $2 million Merck Foundation grant.
“This is the first of its kind that Merck has ever done,” Ramirez said. “We are seeing a lot of great results already and we are not even sixth months into the project. We have brought a lot of partners together that have not normally worked together and it seems to have had a huge impact already.”
The four-year project includes things like community health, education, and prevention of opioid use, harm reduction, as well as community-based quick response teams to visit individuals following overdoses.
They are also working on Project Engage in the hospital setting, and Provider Response Organization for Addiction Care Treatment (PROACT), as a community hub for treatment and referral services.
Ramirez noted they have office staff scattered in those four counties and a physical location for the center is in Teays Valley.
“We wanted to make sure we are meeting the clients where they are and helping guide them and let them know the resources that are available,” Ramirez said. “We want to address stigma in the community. All of that regardless of where we have been, it has been a common theme.
“The need is great for everything that these clients that have a substance abuse disorder are facing. It doesn’t matter whether you are a small town or from a big city, all the issues that they are running into are across all borders.”
The four counties that are involved in the Great Rivers Regional System make up over 20-percent of the population in West Virginia. Ramirez said each county has parts of the grant.
“We realize that there are issues affecting all of our areas,” she said. “This grant is going to help coordinate efforts in all four counties. We wanted to make sure that everything that is offered in the bigger counties, is also offered in the smaller counties of Putnam and Jackson.”
Ramirez complies more than 23 years of public health experience.