Grant to help fight opioid problem


Capstone Rural Health is the lead agent for a Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) Rural Communities Opioid Response Plan (RCORP) Planning Grant award.  Despite this mouthful of acronyms which, on the surface, may not seem important, Walker County is the only county in Alabama to receive the yearlong planning grant.  It is not clear how many applied for this grant from Alabama, but it is known that several entities did apply for this planning grant money. 

To even qualify to apply for the grant, the requirements were very strict. The US Census tracts that are considered “rural” are difficult to qualify for and are probably not easily changed.  Of the 18 census tracts located in Walker County, shockingly only three meet the requirements for being considered rural.  From West to east these are Kansas, Carbon Hill, Townley and extending into West Jasper area slightly and then back up through the Thatch and Macedonia portion of the county.  The census tract line runs through the middle of Curry on the far eastern side of that census tract.  Oddly, the census tract that contains Nauvoo, does not meet the requirements for being considered rural.

To receive this grant, we had to apply for it using these three census tracts which house roughly 11,000 people.  Walker County currently has roughly 65,000 people total.  Our planning grant must be able to show that these census tracts are being served in terms of helping these communities overcome the opioid use disorder crisis.  There is no limit on this plan also helping others outside these census tracts.  We plan to use this fact to our advantage. Not only will the people located within the census tracts benefit from this plan, but all of Walker county will reap the benefits of the plan to battle opioid use disorder.

Walker County has been well documented as one of the worst suffering counties from the current opioid use disorder crisis, not only in the state, but in the entire United States on a per capita basis.  This is both in opioid prescriptions per patient (1.66 prescriptions for everyone patient) and overdose death rate.  But this isn’t just an opioid use disorder issue.  This is a substance use disorder crisis.

The local consortium partners who signed letters of support for Capstone Rural Health to apply for this grant as the lead agent were the Carbon Hill Schools and Carbon Hill First United Methodist Church.  The other consortium partners that signed on in support of Capstone’s application for the grant were the Walker Area Community Foundation, the United Way, the Alabama Department of Health, the Walker County Health department, the University of Alabama in Birmingham HIV and Hep C team, and the University of Alabama School of Nursing.

There are already many stakeholders being contacted and included in this widescale partnership with Capstone Rural Health and the initial consortium partners to attack this issue.   Several meetings have already taken place with the Walker County Board of Education, the rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Robin Hinkle, Donna Kilgore of Jasper Area Family Services, Judge Williams, Judge Allred, law enforcement representatives from the court referral office and the University of Alabama’s STEM-MBA program.  The fundamental goal with this large coalition of partners is to set up a system of Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery in Walker County at every point in the system from schools, family courts, law enforcement, hospitals, community non-profit services to faith-based services to be able to combat this issue that is plaguing Walker County. 

 If you would like to get involved with this coalition of community-based partners to help combat this issue contact the program manager for this grant at Capstone Rural Health at (205) 544-6662.

Matt Tucker is a patient health specialist for Capstone Rural Health. He may be reached at (205) 544-6662 or