JBS Builds Rural Community Coalitions to Address Opioids Epidemic

August 26, 2019

If you’ve ever tried to solve a problem among people with different roles, responsibilities, education levels, priorities and concerns, you know the path to getting everyone “on the same page” is often thorny. But JBS successfully does just that daily – on the ground in rural communities across America that are plagued by the opioid epidemic.

Farmers and ranchers are at a high risk for injury, which can affect job productivity and finances and often leads to the misuse of prescription drugs.  Rural hospitals close when patients can’t afford services. Transportation could be an issue if the nearest drug treatment center is miles away. And internet service that we all take for granted in major metropolitan areas may not even be available in some rural communities.
Enter JBS. One staff member describes the JBS team as “a humble Justice League.”

Our deep bench of opioid experts represents the whole spectrum of experience, from prevention to treatment to recovery. JBS leads collaboration efforts in rural communities on behalf of the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), organizing and empowering a diverse set of stakeholders across disciplines. A consortium might include those in recovery and their family members, EMTs, law enforcement officers, school personnel, public health leaders, social workers, clergy members, broadband internet providers, hospital staff, transportation officials, and various others – all working toward a common goal of filling their community’s unique gaps and taking steps to curb the opioid crisis in their community.

The HRSA planning grants are for one year each, according to Technical Expert Lead Donald McDonald, who oversees 20 grantees. “In that time, we help communities to cultivate diverse consortia. We provide the collaborators with tools to assess their unique strengths and to identify gaps in their systems of care. We support them as they craft smart strategic plans and develop their addictions workforce. Finally, we leave them with a strong focus on sustainability.”

“Our experts come from all different places around the country and understand the science and art of getting people to the table. They know how to identify and solve the problems unique to a community,” said JBS President Jennifer Kasten, PhD. “And, importantly, they roll up their sleeves and do it in strategic ways that can be sustained long after our team has left.”

This could involve challenges such as addressing policies or beliefs impeding access to care or mindfully balancing a faith component of the health crisis with a science-based approach in developing a standardized curriculum for a school system.

“We have skin in the game,” said McDonald. “We bring a huge breadth and depth of knowledge, but we don’t overstep. We care deeply and sincerely want communities to thrive. I’ve never been with a group like this before.”

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