UTEP partnership receives federal grant to combat opioid abuse in West Texas counties

EL PASO, Texas – The University of Texas at El Paso’s Minority AIDS Research Center (MARC) is the subrecipient of a $1 million implementation grant to target substance use disorders and opioid use disorders in five rural counties along the Texas-Mexico border.

UTEP’s MARC is one of four regional consortium partners led by Aliviane Inc., the principle recipient of the three-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP). Other partners include the Texas State Department of Health Services Office of Border Public Health, and Presidio County Health Services.

The consortium will implement prevention, treatment and recovery services for substance use disorders, including opioid use disorders, in Texas Public Health Service Region 10, which includes Hudspeth, Culberson, Presidio, Brewster and Jeff Davis counties.

“During the planning phase of this grant, our consortium successfully assessed the need for prevention, treatment and recovery services for people with substance and opioid abuse disorders and developed a strategic and workforce development plan for these five Texas rural counties,” said Thenral Mangadu, M.D., Ph.D., UTEP associate professor of public health sciences and MARC’s executive director. “With the support from HRSA’s Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, our consortium will be the main interdisciplinary service provider for substance use disorders and opioid use disorders in the region.”

According to Mangadu, approximately 24,609 residents, mostly Mexican-American, live in the five West Texas rural counties. The area has been designated a federal Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) for its lack of providers. About 37% of residents are uninsured and 22% live along the poverty line. 

“The rural counties of Hudspeth, Culberson, Presidio, Brewster and Jeff Davis have limited to no access to life-saving substance use disorder (SUD) or opioid use disorder (OUD) prevention and treatment services,” said Ivonne Tapia, Aliviane Inc. chief executive officer. Through the consortium, partners will be able to leverage resources and expand access to SUD/OUD prevention, treatment, recovery support services, a trained workforce and the creation of a sustainability plan aimed at reducing cost of care for individuals living in the targeted rural counties, Tapia said.

Adrian Billings, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer of Preventative Care Health Services, also known as Presidio County Health Services, said that part of the isolation of practicing in a Health Professional Shortage Area is the absence of resources for patients and physicians. He said he hopes that this collaboration will increase resources for his patients and the physicians who are caring for this vulnerable patient population.

“Our clinic is the only clinic between El Paso, Del Rio and Midland-Odessa offering buprenorhpine treatment for opioid dependent patients,” Billings said. “Our patients do not currently have access to substance abuse counselors or local narcotics anonymous meetings to augment their buprenorphine prescription treatment.”

Funds will be used to implement workforce, service delivery, and sustainability plans that focus on prevention, treatment and recovery with service providers in all five counties. Plans also will address the risk of HIV, hepatitis C virus, and mental health disparities associated with substance use disorders and opioid use disorders.

Adriana Corona Luevanos, Office of Border Public Health (OBPH) program manager, said the OBPH will help the consortium implement all core project activities, including providing feedback on detailed assessment and analysis, strategic planning, and workforce and sustainability plan development.

In August 2020, HRSA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded over $101 million to 116 organizations in 42 states and the District of Columbia to combat substance use disorders and opioid use disorders. Aliviane was one of three Texas organizations to receive the award.


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