AppHealthCare and the Mediation and Restorative Justice Center (MRJC) were among the 2019 recipients awarded funding through the federal Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program (COAP) under the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice (more information about the COAP here). This award is a three year allocation that will provide long-lasting positive change in our community and reflects a paradigm shift in our community’s readiness and capacity to respond to the opioid epidemic within our local criminal justice system.
Over the past two years, AppHealthCare, MRJC, and the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), along with many other community partners, have worked together to build a coalition to strategically address the opioid and substance use disorder crisis in our communities. Central to this coalition is the fact that trauma and adversity are often precursors to substance use and justice-involvement and appropriate treatment and support are critical to long term success and avoiding a repetitive cycle for those struggling with the disease of addiction.
With this funding, AppHealthCare will act as the point agency to support MRJC and WCSO in responding to the opioid epidemic within our local criminal justice system. This three-year, site-based project will join fifty other COAP projects nationwide and will encompass the Watauga County Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program and the Recovery on the Inside Program within the Watauga County Detention Center. Combined, these programs will strengthen the relationship between first responders, behavioral health professionals, and local service providers to meet the complex needs of our community.
“Like North Carolina and the United States, the High Country and Watauga County is experiencing an opioid crisis due to opioid use, misuse, and abuse. This is a public health issue many agencies are focusing time and energy to address and are actively working to find solutions and connect people to the care they need. We know this work will take a community wide approach with each doing their part to improve outcomes related to the opioid crisis,” stated Jennifer Greene, AppHealthCare Health Director.
COAP was developed as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) legislation. COAP’s purpose is to provide financial and technical assistance to plan, develop, and implement comprehensive efforts to identify, respond to, treat, and support those impacted by the opioid epidemic who come in contact with or are at greater risk of involvement with the criminal justice system. By combining local efforts, and launching new services this project will serve as the community leader for restorative justice approaches in tackling the opioid epidemic.
“MRJC is interested in reducing the harm caused by unresolved conflict, litigation, and incarceration that can come along with the opioid crisis. We are excited to continue to work with our community to promote respect, peace, productivity and safety and to reduce the negative impacts of the opioid crisis,” stated Dr. Marisa Cornell, Executive Director of MRJC.
“The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office is committed to protecting the lives and well-being of our citizens and value the partnership of various agencies in our community to address the opioid crisis,” stated Sheriff Len D. Hagaman, Jr.
To-date our community has taken great steps toward establishing a more coordinated response to this epidemic. AppHealthCare, MRJC, and WCSO applaud the team’s effort to continue building upon this success for long term outcomes that will positively impact our local justice, law enforcement, human service, healthcare, and public health systems.