Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) announced a new regional initiative to combat the opioid epidemic at a press conference at the Binghamton University Downtown Center on Monday morning.
Alongside a group of collaborating officials, Lupardo detailed how she helped secure a $100,000 grant from the New York state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. The funding will create space for 15 AmeriCorps members who will serve a combined 20,000 hours in prevention, treatment navigation and recovery support services. An additional $153,816 in federal funding and nearly $40,000 from local organizations and in-kind contributions will support the program.
The Rural Health Network of South Central New York will organize and manage operations of the AmeriCorps project.
Each of the 15 volunteers will be based at one of nine regional host organizations, including the Broome County Promise Zone, Mothers and Babies Prenatal Network, Southern Tier AIDS Program and the Tioga County Health Department. Jack Salo, executive director of the Rural Health Network of South Central New York, said this will allow for a comprehensive approach to facing the opioid crisis affecting the Southern Tier.
“I think the diversity of approach here is really targeting the resource to the particular activity in the community and organization that needs it,” Salo said. “So it’s not a one-size-fits-all, and I think that real strength of the AmeriCorps program and a real strength of this project.”
The program aims to serve five primary counties of service — Broome, Cortland, Delaware, Madison and Tioga — as well as seven additional, secondary counties in the region. According to Lupardo, the wide reach of the program would not be possible without collaboration across the community.
“It’s very gratifying to see how many different agencies and people are coming together to address it,” Lupardo said. “Whether it’s addressing it from the prevention side, early intervention, treatment or recovery services, all of the partners are working collaboratively.”
A pilot program was launched in March of this year in which three AmeriCorps members worked on the opioid issues in the area. Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said expanding this program is a vital step in combatting the opioid crisis.
“We’ve shown that on the small scale in the last few months that this works and this saves lives, so now we’re literally quadrupling the amount of people that we have out on the ground, working to do these really great things,” Garnar said.
Luann Kida, community schools director of the Broome County Promise Zone, said that Miesha Marzell, an assistant professor in the social work department at Binghamton University, has expressed her interest in contributing to the project. As a researcher, Marzell has a background in the etiology and prevention of high-risk substance use.
AmeriCorps members will receive site-specific training as well as group training from the the network. According to Salo, the program recently enrolled the first two AmeriCorps members to the project and is actively recruiting graduating BU students and others for the program. Those interested can apply at www.rhnscny.org.