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Successful Strategies for Addressing the Opioid Epidemic in Rural Communities: Response Teams

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2022
4 pages

This brief is part of a series highlighting partnership projects that are part of the Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic project; it discusses the partnerships of Ellenville Regional Hospital and Marshall University Research Corporation, in New York and West Virginia, respectively.


This Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) document on harm reduction describes the Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic (RROE) project. The RROE project aims to serve residents with substance use disorder (SUD); it supports 21 rural sites across the United States in order to develop or enhance efforts to do the following tasks: strengthen epidemiologic surveillance and public health data infrastructure; implement effective community-level opioid overdose prevention activities; and establish or enhance public safety, public health, and behavioral health collaborations. The document notes that sites may also expand peer recovery and recovery support services that help people start and continue with recovery. Another project focus is to make more efficient use of limited resources. The two partnerships featured in this brief are the Ellenville Regional Hospital (ERH) in Ulster County, New York, and Marshall University Research Corporation (Marshall), which functions in five coalfield counties in West Virginia. The focus of the document is Response Teams, addressing a need of communities in isolated, rural areas where substance use and mental health services are difficult to access, and which were particularly affected by overdose incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The brief discusses ERH’s improvement of an already existing opioid response team embedded in the sheriff’s office, and the creation of a new team with a different workflow from the traditional model, called the Overdose Prevention Response Team (OPRT). The brief also describes the efforts of Marshall, which supports and provides technical assistance to quick response teams (QRTs) as part of its Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP) grant. Lessons learned include: engaging with partners to identify important information and resources; frequently checking in with team members to avoid potential problems; and taking advantage of social media as an information tool.