MTSU Receives $2.9M Grant to Establish Mobile Drug Treatment Assistance in Rural Tennessee

Drug overdose statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health. (Photo illustration by Nancy DeGennaro)

Rural Tennesseans will have a better chance at recovering from opioid addiction through a $2.92 million federal grant awarded to MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services, in partnership with Cedar Recovery treatment clinic.

The three-year grant comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, or RCORP, an HRSA initiative aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality of substance use disorder, including opioid use disorder.

“We have an opioid crisis in this country — substance use in general — so we have a really good opportunity to change a whole lot of lives with this grant,” said Cynthia Chafin, director of the Center for Health and Human Services.

The latest grant will establish new medication-assisted treatment access points in a total of six rural Tennessee counties. The first five counties will include Giles, Hickman, Lawrence, Franklin and Marshall. This will be the first mobile unit in the state of Tennessee to solely offer medication-assisted treatment, said Paul Trivette, chief strategy officer with Cedar Recovery.

There are also plans to add methadone treatment as well as a brick-and-mortar location in a sixth county that will be named later.

The new grant is an expansion of the successful completion of an 18-month HRSA-funded RCORP planning grant, as well as a subsequent three-year implementation grant to address the opioid epidemic in Wilson County communities.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate success with what we’ve done, so we’ll be able to expand these services into six new rural counties, which means every person who lives in those counties who has substance use problems will have access to treatment,” said Chafin, who spent more than a decade as a Wilson County resident and resides in the local area.

Cedar Recovery addiction treatment specializes in treating opioid use disorder with medications such as buprenorphine and/or naltrexone. There are eight Tennessee locations as well as a robust telemedicine platform that provide care to over 2,500 patients each month.

Cedar’s current physical locations include Nashville, Lebanon, Columbia, Shelbyville, Cookeville, Athens, East Knoxville and South Knoxville.

Under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Loyd, chief medical officer, and clinical director Mai Ferrell, Cedar Recovery delivers an integrated model of care that combines medication and therapeutic interventions.

“By combining counseling, therapy and case management services, medication-assisted treatment has been shown to improve outcomes by reducing mortality, increasing treatment retention and compliance, and suppressing cravings and withdrawal symptoms allowing for a greater focus on therapy to address the root causes of an individual’s substance use disorder,” Loyd noted.

While Cedar Recovery provides direct services, MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services will have a dedicated staff person to coordinate all the pieces of the grant through the community partnership.

“The Center for Health and Human Services’ successful track record, including implementation of the (previous) grants, and its commitment to bettering the health and well-being of Tennesseans, sets the stage to work effectively with Cedar Recovery to make even greater impact potentially saving lives,” said David Butler, vice provost for research and dean of MTSU’s College of Graduate Studies.

“MTSU is pleased to support this partnership and to be part of the solution for this pressing public health concern.”

About the MTSU Center for Health and Human Services

The Center for Health and Human Services, through collaborative affiliations and partnerships, facilitates projects, programs, and research activities in public health issues of importance to Tennessee and to that of the nation, consistent with the mission and purpose of MTSU.

The center has conducted research and programming in all 95 counties throughout its 30-year history. Through collaboration and partnerships, CHHS supports efforts to initiate and strengthen academic programs in health and human services to support workforce development and promote healthy communities.

For more information, contact Cynthia Chafin at [email protected] or visit the center’s website at CHHS relies primarily on external funding for its operations and actively seeks internal and external partners to fulfill its vision and mission for a healthier Tennessee.

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