Blue Ridge Medical Center

The Blue Ridge Medical Center in Nelson County. 

The Nelson Community Wellness Alliance is one step closer to its goal of bringing a family drug treatment court to the county after receiving a competitive grant.

A family drug treatment court has the goal of keeping families together if possible while also getting the parents the help they need to fight their drug addiction.

The Blue Ridge Medical Center in Arrington, applied for an Opioid Response Planning Grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration in March and was one of the three Virginia agencies — and one of 120 across the country — to receive money to help fight drug problems in rural areas. The medical center is acting as fiscal agent for the alliance until it receives 501(c)(3) status.

According to the news release from HRSA, the money will help “formalize partnerships with local stakeholders, conduct needs assessments, and develop plans to implement and sustain substance use disorder (SUD), including opioid use disorder (OUD), prevention, treatment, and recovery interventions.”

The $200,000 planning grant will allow the alliance to hire two full-time employees and provide them with the means to assess the needs of the county.

“The first step is for everyone on the network to come together to discuss a family treatment court, the needs, and what it would require. We can hire a coordinator for the alliance to make sure these things will happen,” Stephanie Martin, a member of the alliance, said.

Martin said the alliance members currently work full time and don’t have the time to fully dedicate to studying the needs of the county or what a family drug treatment court would require, but this grant money helps them do just that.

“A number of things could be beneficial to the county, but right now, no one can dedicate the time to figure it out,” Martin said.

Martin said the $200,000 will be made available in June and if the planning proves beneficial, BRMC can apply for a three year implementation grant to hopefully make everything discussed possible.

“It could possibly be four years of funding to provide services that don’t currently exist,” Martin said.

Martin said the lack of mental and physical well-being services in Nelson County is a big problem because many people want to get the help, but don’t have convenient means to make that happen.

Nelson County Sheriff David Hill, who represents the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office as an alliance member, said in order to help fight drug use, selling, and distribution in the county, resources need to be provided.

“Education is a need and spreading the word in regards to drug use and the effects on our bodies,” Hill said on May 23.

Hill said education in schools to prevent potential drug use is necessary as is providing resources to those who want to fight their addiction and change for the better.

“A lot of these people as I have spoken with them, they have hit a rut in their lives. They are searching for a way out, but here in Nelson County the road sometimes doesn’t always exist for them; the resources aren’t always there,” Hill said.

Hill said a number of things he has heard from users seeking help include not knowing help is available, not being able to physically get to meetings or opportunities, and that they don’t have the time between multiple jobs to get the help they need.  

“I think this grant will be a big help and we hope for a positive response,” Hill said.

According to Martin, HRSA considered community needs as well as the efforts put forth by groups like the alliance, in determining who would receive grants.

“The fact that the wellness alliance is young and still has a big commitment from the community helped,” Martin said.

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Erin Conway covers Nelson County. Reach her at (434) 385-5524 or econway@newsadvance.com.

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