After receiving a $2 million federal grant, UT Health San Antonio will expand its substance use disorder response program, Be Well Texas.
The grant will be funded over four years, according to the UT Health press release, and allow them to expand the program into rural Texas areas.
The program currently works with 12 rural providers; the grant will more than double that number.
“With the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant, Be Well Texas will lead and assist a consortium of 28 rural provider organizations in building a responsive behavioral health care delivery system,” the press release explained.
The program will reach all 178 rural counties in Texas, so it will have the capacity to “reduce the morbidity and mortality of opioid use disorder” (OUD) among rural communities throughout the entire state.
Inexplicably, opioid availability is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, according to UT Health San Antonio. Rural counties were found to have more opioid pills distributed per capita than urban counties from 2006 to 2014.
Young County had a distribution rate of 88.3 per person, according to data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. There were other rural counties with similar rates during the same time frame, including Brown (68.1), Wilbarger (75.2), and Childress (76.2).
The urban region of Bexar County had a distribution rate of 29.4 per person, with the counties of Dallas, Harris, and El Paso having similar rates.
UT Health San Antonio’s expansion will align with the goals of HRSA’s Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, Behavioral Health Care Support, the press release shared. These goals include offering low-barrier OUD treatment and support, with either telehealth or in-person options.
“Rural residents without internet access or those preferring more traditional in-person care will be able to obtain Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and counseling from 28 rural providers scattered across the state,” UT Health explained regarding the in-person treatment options.
“Since Texas’ rural residents often work outside of their home county, they can also receive services from the network’s 59 additional MAT and Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) centers in small towns and urban centers.” The number of contracted providers now totals 76.
With telehealth treatment, needed medications can be delivered to local pharmacies or through the mail.
Briseida “Bee” Courtois, the director of the grant project and network program manager of Be Well Texas, stated death from opioids can be partly attributed to the lack of available resources.
“Deaths from opioid-related overdose are one of the greatest health failures of our time,” Courtois shared in the press release. “These types of need disparities led UT Health San Antonio to launch the Be Well Texas network.”
Currently, the Be Well Texas program serves over 10,000 adults each year. The program treats other substance abuse disorders, including those involving stimulant use, alcohol use, and other substances.