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ARC funding to go toward jobs for recovering drug users in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virgina Drug Intervention Institute plans to use $478,000 in grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission to provide job opportunities to recovering drug users.

Dr. Susan Bissett

The funding was announced during the ARC’s 2023 Annual Conference in Ashland, Kentucky Monday. WV DII President Dr. Susan Bissett said they’ll find jobs for people in the Huntington-Charleston region.

“The grant allows for us to hire 10 persons who are in recovery or in the judicial area to assist with law enforcement, distributing naloxone and doing naloxone education,” Bissett said.

Naloxone, or commonly known by the brand name Narcan, is an opioid reversal drug used to help a person who is experiencing an overdose.

The employment program and community outreach will take place in 15 high-risk counties in West Virginia and Kentucky.

“These are counties that have been significantly and adversely affected by the opioid epidemic, so pretty much the southeastern part of the state and the adjacent counties in Kentucky,” Bissett said.

The funding is in partnership with the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), and HarborPath. It’s part of a recently announced nearly $14 million package through ARC’s Investments Supporting Partnerships in Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Initiative, which addresses the region’s substance use disorder crisis.

The program works to educate community members about the use of the overdose reversal drug naloxone, overdose prevention, and treatment and recovery resources. The project also includes the distribution of the ONEbox, an emergency opioid response kit, to communities.

Bissett said the ARC’s grant will allow them to help recovering drug addicts find work if they’re having a difficult time securing a job.

“When you are a person in recovery, it’s sometimes difficult because of stigma to find a job, a position, employers that are recovery-friendly workplaces and so these monies significantly help with eliminating some of that stigma,” she said.

Having a strong economy means providing more job opportunities to those who need it, Bissett said.

“We have to have folks that are healthy and are able to go to work and contribute to the economy. In order to do that, we have to support getting people into recovery, maintaining their recovery and giving them a living wage so that they can be part of that system that helps drive the economics of our community,” she said.

ARC Chair Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin said in a statement Monday, “I commend the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute for their work supporting the recovery ecosystem in our region. They are integral to bringing our INSPIRE projects to life. WV DII is a great asset in our efforts to address the region’s substance use disorder crisis, and I look forward to seeing how they will help build a strong recovery ecosystem and a stronger workforce for the opportunities of tomorrow.”

ARC expects to issue a request for proposals for the next round of INSPIRE grant opportunities in early 2024.

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