Grays Harbor Public Health is one of 21 sites across the U.S. to receive $750,000 over two years from the Rural Response to the Opioid Epidemic grant. The grant’s purpose is to reduce the disease and death associated with opioid overdoses in rural communities by bringing together experts from public safety, therapeutic justice, behavioral health, and public health. Funding for this grant comes from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the State Justice Institute.

While no community has remained untouched, the impact of substance use disorder has hit rural communities especially hard. Over the past decade, Grays Harbor County’s rate of death from opioid overdose has been among the highest in Washington State.

“I’m very pleased that Grays Harbor was among the recipients of this highly competitive award,” said Karolyn Holden, Director of Grays Harbor Public Health. “We see this as a valuable addition to the variety of prevention efforts we implement, and will align this work with other important community-wide efforts to expand evidence-based interventions for substance use disorder.”

The project’s leadership team includes Aberdeen resident Jeff Simmons, Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Stephen Brown, Aberdeen Fire Chief Tom Hubbard, Grays Harbor County Coroner Bob Kegel, Grays Harbor Undersheriff Brad Johansson, and Grays Harbor Public Health Deputy Director Beth Mizushima. Community Health Specialist Wilma Weber from Grays Harbor Public Health will provide staff support for the project.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to collaborate around the shared goal of improving health and safety,” Holden said. “Many local leaders are committing to this work and I’m excited to see what can be accomplished together.”