MTSU Center for Health and Human Services Continues Grant-Funded Fight Against Opioid Epidemic in Wilson Co.

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MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services continues to work with rural Wilson County communities and partners to combat opioid misuse as part of a $1 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

An agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HRSA awarded the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, or RCORP, grant in 2021 to the Center for Health and Human Services, which has since worked with Wilson County agencies and community partners to address the public health crisis.

In 2020, Wilson County reported 79 overdose deaths, according to the Tennessee Department of Health, while the state of Tennessee reported 3,023 total overdose deaths that year.

Various initiatives have been implemented in Wilson County to help reduce overdose deaths, one of the more successful interventions being a diversion center, otherwise known as the Preventing Incarceration in Communities Center, or PIC Center. Addiction treatment provider Cedar Recovery launched the center under a grant from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in collaboration with CHHS partner, DrugFree WilCo.

MTSU alumnus Jason L. Lawson, district attorney general for the 15th Judicial District, has helped build the policies and procedures of the PIC Center, whose clients are referred directly from the Wilson County district attorney’s office, usually after an arrest or recent incarceration.

Clients report to the PIC Center for an initial assessment and then are referred to a suitable treatment facility. Progress is reported from the treatment facility on a weekly basis, with follow-up assessments at the center after one month, three months, and then six months. After clients graduate from the program, the PIC Center is an advocate for their charges to be dropped based on their completion of treatment.

The work of the PIC Center is incorporated into the work plan of the Center for Health and Human Services’ RCORP grant with additional treatment funding for the uninsured in Wilson County and ensuring transportation to treatment appointments in this rural county.

The results of the PIC project are significant. Since the program was started in November 2021, there have been 14 graduates. The current number of active clients is 40. To date, there has been an 80% success rate.

“This is a program that gives many a second chance they would not normally have,” stated Derrell Seigler, program director of the PIC Center. “The goal of the program is not just diversion but ultimately to change lives and help people move forward.”

Seigler’s goal is to help give those with substance use issues a second chance after a drug-related criminal charge. The CHHS RCORP team and stakeholders in Wilson County believe that the PIC Center is a key initiative to reducing the recidivism rate in the county and getting clients treatment they need to lead successful lives.

In October, CHHS participated in a two-day site visit with HRSA representatives who met with the MTSU team and Wilson County stakeholders to discuss the CHHS grant awarded by HRSA, progress made, and to finalize a workplan for the coming year. Included in the site visit was a visit to the PIC Center along with visits to other grantee partners.

CHHS is committed to engaging in work that addresses the national opioid crisis and is working on a new grant application which, if funded, would bring dollars and resources to two other Middle Tennessee rural counties.

For more information on MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services and the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program grant for Wilson County or to learn how the center can help meet your organization’s research, training, or education needs, contact Cynthia Chafin at 615-898-5493 or Cynthia.chafin@mtsu.edu or visit the center’s website at http://www.mtsu.edu/chhs/.