In addition to its core function of developing and facilitating a longitudinal health careers pipeline, the Northeast Kentucky Area Health Education Center has become known for its grant-funded work on several of the region’s health disparities.
In 2017, as a part of a Primary Care Training Enhancement (PCTE) grant, the NE KY AHEC began facilitating opioid-focused education for medical providers within northeastern Kentucky. These trainings were much needed because overdose rates within the service region were higher than state, Appalachian, and national averages, according to NORC’s Overdose Mapping Tool. Because the problem was too large for any one organization to tackle on its own, the NE KY AHEC initiated formation of the Northeast Kentucky Substance Use Response Coalition (the Coalition). The Coalition is a formal network of health care and social service organizations (representing 18 counties) focused on building a community-based approach to addressing our region’s opioid crisis. Coalition members represent multiple sectors and, besides the NE KY AHEC include: St. Claire HealthCare; Achieving Recovery Together, a recovery community organization; the Clark County Health Department; Comprehend, Inc., and Pathways, Inc., community mental health centers; Tri-State Primary Care; the Kentucky Rural Healthcare Information Organization; and Gateway District Health Department. Organizing multiple community partners to work together, instead of functioning in silos, allowed for better coordination of services and reduced any duplication of effort. As the Coalition formalized (establishing bylaws and a governing board) its impact continued to grow. To date, this Coalition – which is staffed and administered by the NE KY AHEC – has been awarded six federal grant projects and more than $3.4 million worth of grant funding. Those six projects are listed below:
August 2018 – July 2019
This project established the Northeast Kentucky Substance Use Response Coalition and distributed a Medication-Assisted Treatment survey to more than 100 health care providers and administrators in our service area.
June 2019 – November 2020
This project included conducting interviews with incarcerated individuals in Clark, Greenup, Mason, and Powell counties concerning addiction, treatment, and recovery; hosting community meetings in Lawrence, Nicholas, and Robertson counties about similar topics within their communities; and substance use prevention education presentations in local school systems within Lawrence, Nicholas, and Robertson counties.
September 2019 – August 2022
This project expanded or implemented medication-assisted treatment at the four St. Claire HealthCare rural health clinics (located in Frenchburg, Olive Hill, Owingsville, and Sandy Hook).
July 2020 – June 2023
This project focuses on a multi-faceted educational initiative both for students and health care providers throughout our entire 18-county service region. For students, we focus on correct prescription medication use and substance use prevention. For providers, we have created a MAT Training Resource Center that includes: MAT 101 information sessions, MAT waiver course sessions, MAT Boot Camp sessions, and MAT mentorship with a team of experience MAT providers.
September 2020 – August 2023
This project established a jail reentry program of our creation called First Day Forward in Clark, Mason, and Powell counties. First Day Forward works to pair incarcerated individuals with a trusted peer support professional who works on educational curriculum and goal-setting while the individual is incarcerated, and upon release connects the participant to resources such as housing, employment, treatment, and support groups.
September 2020 – February 2022
This project is assessing the potential for replicating First Day Forward in the other service area counties with jails (Cater, Lewis, Montgomery, and Rowan counties) by conducting additional interviews with incarcerated individuals and jail staff.
Outside of all these projects, our Coalition is also a partner on a Bureau of Justice Assistance, Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic Initiative project which runs from February 2020 – January 2022. Our contribution to this project is providing correct prescription medication use and substance use prevention education to students in Carter, Estill, Lee, Morgan, and Wolfe counties.
The NE KY AHEC has collaborated with the University of Kentucky College of Nursing’s BREATHE Team on radon-related projects since 2015. In that initial study, 58 adult participants were recruited from two rural health clinics; the participants completed a brief survey and were given a free long-term home radon test kit. Researchers concluded that providing free home radon test kits in the primary care setting shows promise in prompting radon testing in rural Appalachia. The results of the study, Home Radon Testing in Rural Appalachia, were published in December 2020 in The Journal of Rural Health.
That initial study also helped lay the groundwork for a current five-year, National Institutes of Health-funded project called Radon on the RADAR (Residents Acting to Detect and Alleviate Radon). For that project, the NE KY AHEC is collaborating with the BREATHE Team on Rowan County. The project (2019-’24) will address community concerns about lung cancer by identifying geological and atmospheric conditions that increase radon intrusion into homes, translating this knowledge into greater residential awareness of risk, enabling home radon testing and report back, and most importantly, growing access to affordable and adequate radon mitigation.
In 2019 and again in 2021, the NE KY AHEC partnered with the Gateway District Health Department (GDHD) to deliver an education and marketing campaign concerning radon and encouraging radon testing in the home. Staff created a plan to inform citizens within the GDHD services counties (Bath, Elliott, Menifee, Morgan, and Rowan) about the dangers of radon, and how they could acquire their free test kit. This multi-faceted approach included newspaper advertisements, targeted social media posts, radio public service announcements, tabling at community health fairs, and recording a public service video.
In addition to the projects above, the NE KY AHEC has served in partnership roles on many other grant-funded endeavors. Some of which include:
For more information, email Northeast Kentucky Substance Use Response Coalition Director, KaLeigh Hemminger at email@example.com.
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