Area opioid grant to benefit DMHS
Drew Memorial Health System is not only finishing an expansion project to its building on Scogin Road, it will benefit from a $750,000 grant awarded to Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (formerly Greater Delta Alliance for Health, Inc.) to fight the opioid use crisis in Drew County.
ARHP was one of 10 organizations across the country to receive the Health Resources and Service Administration Rural Health Opioid Grant this year. The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership project was funded for $750,000 to address opioid use disorder in Drew County and Southeast Arkansas over the next three years.
At this time, DMHS officials said they do not know the scope of the grant or how much will be actually coming to Monticello, but this grant will assist in combating a growing problem.
Called the Arkansas Delta Rural Health Opioid Project, it is the first behavioral health project for the ARHP, an organization of non-profit Arkansas Delta hospitals including Ashley County Medical Center, Baptist Health Medical Center at Stuttgart, Bradley County Medical Center, Chicot Memorial Medical Center, Dallas County Medical Center, Delta Memorial Hospital, DeWitt Hospital and Nursing Home, Jefferson Regional Medical Center and McGehee Hospital as well as DMHS.
The Arkansas Delta RHOP will expand locally available screening, education, outreach, case management and counseling services for those at-risk or diagnosed with OUD in eight counties including Drew, Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Dallas, Desha and Jefferson counties. The project is a collaborative effort between the RHP and the 10th District Substance Abuse Program New Beginnings Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment, which will provide behavioral health services in the eight-county region named in the grant.
“We look forward to being a part of the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, where so many agencies and services are coming together to address each phase of the epidemic, based on individual needs,” New Beginnings Executive Director Mike Knickerbocker said in a press release announcing the grant.
New Beginnings works with and receives referrals for treatment from district and circuit courts, the Department of Human Services and the Division of Children and Family Services. In 2016, the organization provided a comprehensive range of addiction services to more than 1,000 people on a residential and outpatient basis.
The joint RHOP is unique in that it begins in the clinical setting at the local clinic and navigates the patient to counseling services provided by local behavioral health experts. Arkansas RHP hospitals and participating clinics will be able to provide and expand opioid use disorder counseling services by focusing on physician and community education and training to identify individuals at-risk and guide them to recovery by providing case management at the clinic site as well as counseling services via telehealth with a licensed counselor employed by New Beginnings. This project represents a community effort that puts all the pieces in place to address this issue.
“This is a huge step forward,” Knickerbocker noted in the press release. “Through our wrap-around care coordination services, our efforts will be monitored daily to ensure better outcomes for residents of Southeast Arkansas. We at New Beginnings Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse are truly excited about the opportunity afforded our part of the state.”
Drug abuse, specifically prescription drug abuse, was recognized as a serious community problem in the mandatory IRS Community Health Needs Assessments conducted by member hospitals in 2016.
“Our hospitals are recognizing that they must take a leadership role in addressing community health issues,” Arkansas RHP Executive Director Mellie Bridewell said. “They also acknowledge that they can’t make a difference without involving local organizations, officials, and professionals. This project brings Southeast Arkansas healthcare organizations, mental and behavioral health organizations, the legal system and social service organizations together to begin to address these issues we so desperately need to tackle.”
The project also includes building a coalition to address the drug abuse problem in the community.
In other hospital news, DMHS welcomed Dr. N. Lakshmi Battala, OB/GYN to its Women’s Services team. A native of India, Battala graduated medical school at the age of 21 before moving to New York for residency. She has practiced medicine for 20 years, chiefly in central California. She will provide general obstetrics and gynecology care in the Drew Memorial Women’s Services building behind the main hospital facility with Dr. Kelly Shrum, OB-GYN.
Patients seeking family planning, obstetrics, menopausal and post-menopausal care and everything in between will be Battala’s target area. She explained that choosing a favorite area of medicine is impossible.
“I love delivering babies,” Battala said in a press release about her coming to DMHS. “I love performing surgery; really, I love it all. I just love helping people. I have a passion for it.”
Battala said she wanted a new challenge and she chose to settle down in Southeast Arkansas long-term because of the hospitality she experienced during her visits here.
“The people here are very nice,” she said in the press release. “Everyone has been wonderful. I’ll live here forever.” Her family will be joining her in Monticello in the coming months. There will be two opportunities for potential patients and others to meet Monticello’s newest doctor.
DMHS is hosting meet-and-greet at Monticello Country Club from 6-7:30 p.m. next Tuesday, and Battala will also be at the hospital’s Health Fair lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27.
Battala is now accepting new patients. To set up an appointment, contact Drew Memorial Women’s Services at 870-367-9700.