Genesis Family Health has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that has allowed the organization to hire a new psychiatrist and case manager as it endeavors to combat regional opioid addiction.

The 2017 Access Increases in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has provided about $200 million this year to 1,178 health centers for the expansion and integration of mental health and substance abuse services.

Genesis CEO Julie Wright said the agency received $175,000 from the grant that will specifically be used to expand psychiatric services for patients undergoing Suboxone treatment, a medically assisted form of pharmaceutical treatment for opioid addiction. She said the grant also will help expand psychiatric services in the Genesis family health unit to give more medical oversight of treatment programs.

The services will focus on treatment, prevention and awareness of opioid abuse in a primary care setting by increasing personnel, utilizing health information technology and providing additional training.

In accomplishing those goals, Genesis has hired a new psychiatrist and case manager and will expand its telemedicine services to connect communities serviced by Genesis in southwest Kansas and reduce driving time for patients.

“Genesis Family Health is well positioned to aid in tackling the mental health and opioid crises that exist within the service area,” Wright said. “The award will provide necessary resources to augment the essential services that the health center currently provides.”

The expanded funding is part of the DHHS’s five-point strategy to combat the opioid epidemic by improving access to treatment and recovery services, targeting use of overdose-reversing drugs, strengthening understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance, providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction and advancing better practices for pain management.

“Nationally, about half of all care for common mental health conditions happens in the primary care setting,” said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, PhD. “In health centers, where people are often most comfortable, staff with varied expertise have a unique opportunity to provide mental health and substance abuse services to patients who wouldn’t otherwise seek or have access to treatment.”

Rural sates are typically more likely to experience higher rates of overdose and death resultant of prescription opioid overdoses, according to the HRSA. To address the needs of rural states, 496 of the health centers that received the grant are in rural communities.

Wright said opioid addiction begins with prescription drugs used for pain management. She added that the drugs are “extremely addictive,” and addiction can occur suddenly for patients in all walks of life.

“It is a higher prevalence than you would think,” she said. “The issue is how to treat these people and their pain and their addiction all at the same time. That is where the case management and psychiatric services come in.”

Wright noted that Genesis is accepting new patients, and patient services are strictly confidential.

Contact Mark Minton at mminton@gctelegram.com.