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Grant to Support Substance Abuse Recovery in Md.’s Appalachian Region

By Sara Gavin

A team of University of Maryland researchers has been awarded a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to spend the next six months developing a plan to help residents recovering from substance use disorder return to work in Western Maryland.

Led by Eric D. Wish, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), the project aims to develop a recovery-to-work strategy to address gaps in services in Allegany and Garrett counties, such as professional development training for individuals in recovery and the employers who hire them.

The nation’s substance abuse crisis disproportionately impacts Appalachia, where in 2018 the overdose mortality rate for people ages 25–54 was 43% higher than the rest of the country, according to ARC.

“This devastating and ongoing health crisis has severe economic effects as well, keeping many Appalachians of prime working age from participating in the labor force and contributing to the region’s economic growth,” Wish said. “By focusing on both the needs of people in recovery and local businesses, we plan to develop a strategy that will help break the cycle of substance use and misuse that is crippling the area.”

The UMD team will build upon outreach initiated through the Maryland Rural Opioid Technical Assistance project, led by Jinhee Kim, family and consumer sciences leader with University of Maryland Extension. Through a new Recovery Continuum Workgroup comprised of representatives from UMD and the Maryland Appalachian counties, researchers will conduct focus groups of community participants to examine the needs of business, explore workforce readiness for people in post-treatment and evaluate employment challenges presented during COVID-19 and beyond.

UMD’s $47,000 grant was among more than 30 projects funded by ARC through INvestments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE), an initiative addressing Appalachia’s substance abuse crisis by creating or expanding a recovery ecosystem leading to workforce entry or re-entry.

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