FSU Joins Fight Against Opioid Epidemic With AmeriCorps Targeted Priority Grant

Aug 1, 2017 2:04 PM

Frostburg State University has been awarded a $37,203 AmeriCorps targeted priority grant this month by the Corporation for National and Community Service to fund Western Maryland’s Conquering Opiate Abuse Together (COAT) program, which will help fight opioid abuse.

Drug- and alcohol-related deaths claimed nearly 2,100 Maryland lives in 2016, the largest total in state history. State health officials attributed 89 percent of those deaths to opioid-related causes. Opioid-related deaths in Maryland have almost quadrupled since 2010, and Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in March.

“There really wasn’t a question anymore of if there’s a problem with opioids,” said Patrick O’Brien, director of FSU’s Office of Civic Engagement, which will oversee COAT. “The question is what we do about it.”

Maryland’s U.S. senators announced the federal grant funding in July.

“This grant represents a federal investment in our fight to combat the ongoing opioid crisis, which continues to impact families in every corner of Maryland,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “We must meet that head-on with more treatment programs and outreach efforts to affected communities.”

The COAT program grant creates nine new AmeriCorps positions – eight part-time and one full-time – to educate community members about resources and treatment programs available in Maryland’s westernmost counties, Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington.

“We must use every tool at our disposal to fight the opioid epidemic that is devastating so many communities in our state,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “This funding will expand education and prevention programs, and help stop addiction before it starts. It is part of the great work AmeriCorps does in Maryland and across the country, and together we will work to tackle this crisis and save lives.”

COAT AmeriCorps members may be students or individuals with no previous connection to FSU. Each AmeriCorps member will engage the public through open community forums, one-on-one meetings, hotlines and various other strategies to connect addicted people and family members with existing resources.

“A big part of administering an AmeriCorps program grant is having the infrastructure to do so. ... It takes a lot sometimes, even for a small program,” said O’Brien. “Frostburg doesn’t have the resources to directly combat the opioid epidemic, but we do have the experience and ability to bring AmeriCorps to the area and place them where they’re needed.”

O’Brien’s office at FSU will recruit, train and place COAT AmeriCorps members with relevant nonprofits in the four counties and coordinate their ongoing efforts. Recruitment efforts are already under way for the nine new members.

For more information about FSU’s Western Maryland AmeriCorps program, Appalachian Service Through Action and Resources (A STAR!), visit involvement.frostburg.edu/sci/civic-engagement-home/astar-americorps-programs. For more information about AmeriCorps, visit www.AmeriCorps.gov.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.