The rooms echoed with laughter and excitement as hundreds of kids gathered to play sports, create art, record songs and spend time with friends. It was a typical afternoon at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbia.

“We want to make sure that we are meeting all kids’ interest and tapping into their passion and their skills and their love,” club Executive Director Valorie Livingston said. “Hands-on activities are a great way to help children learn and grow.”

One of the clubs’ key programs that encourages positive growth recently received financial support thanks to a federal opioid response grant.

In the clubs’ Positive Action Program, children learn how to lead healthy lifestyles, work toward academic success and much more.

One significant focus of the program is opioid prevention. Because of this, federal money has been allocated to provide the Positive Action Program curriculum for numerous Missouri Boys & Girls Clubs as a part of the State Opioid Response.

Missouri has received nearly $28 million in federal money this year through the opioid response grant. The funds, given to the Missouri Department of Mental Health, support a variety of prevention, treatment and recovery measures across the state.

Funding of the Positive Action Program curriculum for the Boys & Girls Clubs lands under the prevention section of the grant. This program is only one of the ways the Columbia clubs benefitted from the grant. Through the grant, Joe Knight was hired to run the Positive Action Program.

The curriculum includes kits for every grade level; Each kit has 140 lessons. The program requires club members to take tests before and after learning the Positive Action Program curriculum. Knight, a prevention specialist, said he has seen the scores change from pre to post-test, indicating the children have grown in their ability to think and reflect on previous choices before acting.

“I think it starts when kids are young,” Knight said. “If they’re more aware of the choices they are making, it’ll prevent drug issues in the future.”

The grant money has also been used to help the Columbia club with community outreach through opioid awareness materials and mental health fairs, one of which is being held Tuesday.

During the club’s after-school program, club members have been given the opportunity to create a piece of art that relates to mental health and well-being and enter their creations into the mental health fair contest.

The artwork will be displayed at the fair.

Other Funded Programs

The Boys & Girls Clubs are one of many programs receiving federal funding.

According to the opioid response grant Project Manager Rachel Winograd, the project is a continuation and an expansion of Missouri’s Opioid State Targeted Response project that ended in April.

The state’s Department of Mental Health has led the projects along with the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, which handles administration, implementation and evaluation.

Winograd said some funding from the grant has made it to other parts of Columbia in addition to the Boys & Girls Clubs.

The McCambridge Women and Children’s Treatment Center receives money for treatment through a State Opioid Response program contract. McCambridge Center provides treatment to women with substance use disorder through nutrition, parenting classes and prenatal care education.

The Missouri Telehealth Network, run through MU, also received funding. The network aims to provide rural and underserved Missourians with access to patient-centered health care through telehealth.

The network operates a system called Show-Me Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, or Show-Me ECHO. The system includes two different training and education programs: the pain management ECHO for prevention and the opioid use disorder ECHO for treatment.

These programs use videoconferencing to connect experts with care providers. The experts mentor primary care providers through case-based learning; primary clinicians share de-identified cases with the experts, hoping to get some advice for specific health situations.

The projects’ focuses on prevention, treatment and recovery are being implemented in a variety of other ways across the state:

Prevention

The new grant contributes to prevention and education efforts in the following ways:

  • Works with 10 Missouri Boys & Girls Clubs, including the one in Columbia, to help adolescents reduce drug, alcohol and tobacco use.
  • Financing a variety of targeted public service announcements relating to opioid pain management, safer opioid use, the Good Samaritan Law, naloxone and messages focused toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Lincoln University and Harris-Stowe State University.

Winograd, associate research professor at University of Missouri-St. Louis, said a statewide survey showed that these universities have had higher rates of opioid use.

“The vast majority of these funds — like 60% to 70% — goes to pay for treatment,” Winograd said. “There’s not a ton left to span across all these other types of initiatives. So, we want to go and make it need-based.”

  • Supplying street-based overdose education, distributing naloxone and connecting people with services in regions with high rates of active drug use and homelessness.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, naloxone is a rapidly moving medicine that can reverse opioid overdose.

“If we want to go to the people in places with the most need, we need to target people experiencing homelessness, people coming in and out of our justice systems, people of color,” Winograd said.

Treatment

A majority of the grant money is being used to assist providers and people with opioid use disorder throughout the treatment process in the following ways:

Supporting services at the Kansas City Assessment and Triage Center. The purpose of the center as stated on the website is “to divert persons with mental health and substance use disorders away from jails and area emergency rooms to a safe place where they can be assessed and stabilized.”

Because this is the only triage center in the state, Winograd said it makes sense to work to “make their services more comprehensive and able to address overdose” rather than helping create new triage facilities across the state.

  • Expanding clinical training and client resources for perinatal (the immediate time surrounding the birth of a child) substance use and treatment.
  • Financing administrative positions to improve clinical scheduling and workflow.
  • Providing services to connect people released from incarceration or the hospital with behavioral health resources.

According to Winograd, this support is largely focused on the St. Louis County Jail and the Integrated Health Network in St. Louis City. The health network includes a funded position to assist people leaving the justice system in need of treatment.

  • Funding treatment for opioid use disorder in the St. Louis County Jail, as well as supporting the Saint Louis University Addiction Medicine Fellowship, which is geared toward the education of future leaders in treatment of substance use disorder.

Recovery

The grant also funds recovery support and housing with the following measures:

  • Conducting a thorough evaluation of the recovery housing system in Missouri and determining whether it is working well for residents and housing managers. From there, the grant will support any improvements that need to be made.
  • Investing in family support groups through the Recovery Lighthouse, a program in Warrensburg which provides people with opioid use disorder and their families with individual and group counseling and coaching services.

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.

  • I am a fall 2019 state government reporter. I am studying data journalism. Reach me at lilliehegeman@gmail.com or at 816-244-7488 with story tips and ideas.

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