Southern Utah University awarded grant to help rural Southern Utahns with opioid addiction

Sunlight beams through trees on the campus of Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, circa 2018 | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University has been awarded a $1 million HRSA federal grant to help in the effort to battle opioid addiction in rural Southern Utah.

SUU is just one of 116 organizations across the country, and the only one in Utah, to receive the grant issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Along with its private and public sector partners, SUU will pilot a telemedicine program that will provide substance abuse, mental health and nutritional counseling to Utahns in four rural counties — Garfield, Kane, Piute and Wayne — experiencing addiction to the pharmaceutical drug.

“In our rural communities, we know that stigma, the need to stay employed and raising your family keeps many people from seeking recovery services,” Rita Osborn, executive director of SUU’s Utah Center for Rural Health, said in a news release. “Those factors really lend themselves to piloting this project that has in-home services available. It will allow those who are addicted to keep their jobs, stay in their homes, and avoid the public shaming that often exists when receiving needed treatment.”

SUU established a consortium of companies and public health care entities in applying for the federal grant.

Aspire 365, a Salt Lake City-based company will provide counseling services.

Scriptyx, a California-based company, will provide the technology platform for telemedicine counseling.

The consortium also includes three rural health care providers: Kane County Hospital, Garfield Memorial Hospital and Wayne Community Health Clinic. These three facilities will recommend patients for the pilot program.

“As we’ve experienced increased numbers of patients presenting with opioid dependence into our ER, we know there’s a critical need for treatment, particularly inpatient rehabilitation,” Sarah Boone, a social worker at Kane County Hospital, said in the release. “Through this HRSA grant, some of our Kane County residents battling addiction may be able to receive vital support that they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to, and we’re grateful to SUU for including us in this important partnership.”

Selecting participants for the new program will begin immediately. Eighteen patients will enter the program, which the federal grant funds for the next three years.

For more information about the grant, visit the website for SUU’s Utah Center for Rural Health.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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