Opioid misuse, abuse, overdoses, and deaths have combined to create America’s most formidable health crisis of the twenty-first century. Mississippi (MS) has experienced significant increases in opioid-related problems for over a decade, and the state’s persistently early age of drug use onset leaves its young people especially vulnerable to this threat. These challenges are magnified by MS’s stubbornly high poverty rates, pronounced health disparities, and population dispersion (rurality), all of which can foster drug dependence and limit treatment access. Gaps in MS’s health care infrastructure magnify these challenges, as does pervasive skepticism toward proven techniques such as medication-assisted treatment. Such factors leave residents vulnerable to the development or persistence of opioid-related problems, with elevated risks exhibited by pregnant women, recently deployed military veterans, and offenders leaving correctional facilities.
Given these challenges, the MS Department of Mental Health proposes the mCORR project. mCORR (MS Comprehensive Opioid Rapid Response) aims to turn the tide on the opioid epidemic. MS will provide a stringent test of the effectiveness of strategies that have been carefully integrated to provide a comprehensive bulwark against opioid misuse and abuse (OMA), opioid use disorders (OUDs), and the effective treatment of such increasingly prevalent conditions. mCORR is a rapid response initiative designed to reverse the opioid crisis in the short term while at the same time establishing sustainable infrastructure changes that will outlive this two-year project. Among its other goals, mCORR will equip an estimated 750 individuals (e.g., healthcare workers, crisis hotline workers, first responders, and community leaders) to identify, prevent, and reverse OUDs through proven means such as stigma reduction training, statewide SBIRT dissemination, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) expansion, and related strategies. Various community coalitions, including the MS Band of Choctaw Indians, will be funded as mCORR subrecipients. These facets of mCORR will transform the structural and cultural deficits that have contributed to the proliferation of opioid-related problems throughout the state. At the same time, mCORR will reduce the specter of OUDs among at least 1,500 persons who use opiate medications or heroin and are at elevated risk for misuse/abuse and overdose. Current trends indicate that the most propitious targets of such efforts are adult Caucasians and residents living in areas of the state with limited access to treatment resources. Pregnant women and veterans returning from deployment will also be prioritized, as will inmates migrating from correctional facilities into communities. These efforts will be combined with peer support, the Community Reinforcement Approach, ECHO, and newly developed evaluation tools for monitoring progress on all these fronts. In addition, high-risk and rural areas of the state will be subject to a targeted marketing campaign designed to impact an estimated 121,000 of MS’s most vulnerable residents. mCORR promises to enhance opioid-related prevention, treatment, and recovery services rapidly while saving the lives of many Mississippians for years to come.