The Community Action Partnership of Northwest Montana (CAPNM) has received $6,180 to launch an informational project called “Learn the Facts: Responding to the Opiate Crisis in NW MT.”
According to Patrick Malone, the CAPNM deputy director and author of the grant application, the money from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will be used to address “a lack of information and knowledge base about the whole topic.”
Malone cited his personal experience with the crisis as a source of inspiration for the campaign, mentioning that he has known three different people who became addicted to prescription opiates after being injured or undergoing surgery.
Specifically focused on addressing the needs of the organization’s clientele, the project will last four months and consist of five initiatives: to conduct community-based research, survey clients, increase staff awareness, educate clients and create peer discussion groups.
Established in 1976, CAPNM serves roughly 5,000 low-income residents of Northwest Montana. Based in four counties — Flathead, Lincoln, Lake and Eureka — the nonprofit offers numerous programs to aid locals with difficulties in different facets of their lives, including housing, budgeting and education.
With a location in downtown Kalispell, the nonprofit aims to use the informational project to eventually decrease the number of local overdoses and deaths due to legal and illegal opioid use.
The opioid crisis has devastated communities across the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 42,000 deaths were attributed to opioid overdose in 2016, amounting to 116 deaths per day.
In Montana, drug overdoses are the third leading cause of injury-related death, and 44 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the state are caused by opioids, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.
Malone noted that the first two phases of the project have already begun.
Staff members have performed web-based research on existing programs and information available to local residents about opioids, collected from roughly 40 websites.
According to Malone, much of the existing outreach and support for the general public in the region comes from the Flathead Valley Chemical Dependency Clinic.
Just a week earlier, he added, staff began distributing surveys to CAPNM clients. The surveys are meant to “establish a local baseline,” gauging the level of knowledge and experience that clients possess about opiates.
For the third stage of the project, Malone said the organization intends to better train its own staff.
Using the information gleaned from the first steps of the project, Malone said the nonprofit aims to create an educational campaign for its clients starting with specific groups, such as soon-to-be-released inmates with the sheriff’s office or parents in local school districts.
According to Malone, the group then hopes to “facilitate some peer-group sharing in a confidential setting in our office.” Clients would be encouraged to offer stories and support.
He noted that one of the project’s most important overall goals is to teach people how far-reaching the effects of opiate addiction truly are.
“We haven’t yet really personalized a lot of these stories, and we always thinks of [those who are affected by the crisis] as the other,” Malone said. “I just think that we’ve got to recognize that it’s not some other family or drug addicts who are looking for a high; it’s our neighbors.”
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