ALVIN — U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded Community Health Network $167,000 as part of the federal agency’s goal to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, according to officials.

This was $22,000 more than the $145,000 grant the network applied for, which is great news, Community Health Network Chief Administrative Officer Penny Pabst said.

The grant money will allow the network to recruit and hire a full-time psychiatrist by April, Pabst said. It will be easier to fund the position with $167,000 than it would have been with $145,000, she said.

The money allows the network to provide mental health and substance use disorder services, Pabst said, adding that it requires them to expand service to new and existing patients.

The services include mental health and substance use disorder treatment, medication assistance therapy and tobacco or alcohol dependency treatment, she said.

This is the third year Community Health Network has been “lucky enough” to receive this grant, Board Chairman Gerald Roznovsky said, adding that it is an important component to all the funding needed to operate their low-cost clinics and other services.

The focus of this grant is opioids, alcohol and smoking, Roznovsky said. Just like trafficking and homelessness, people might be surprised to learn that these things happen in the wonderful community in which they live, he said.

According to a news release from the Department of Health and Human Services, the number of people receiving medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction at Health Resources and Services Administration-funded clinics increased 142 percent from 2016 to 2018.

The Department of Health and Human Services awarded $17.8 million to community health centers, rural organizations and academic institutions in Texas to establish and expand access to integrated substance use disorder and mental health services, the release states. It supports the Five-Point Opioid Strategy introduced under President Donald Trump in 2017, according to the release.

Psychiatry is especially hard to access in Brazoria County, Pabst said, adding that fewer providers are going into that field. Psychiatrists are in charge of medication management and will provide that for Community Health Network patients, she said.

Counselors and psychotherapists provide more counseling for substance use disorder and mental health patients, which is also an important aspect of the treatment, Pabst said.

The network expects to serve 215 existing patients and 105 new patients with the services this grant will help fund, she said.

This form of substance use disorder treatment requires counseling in groups and individually and helps patients avoid an inpatient program, Pabst said.

The Community Health Network is based in Alvin and has implemented the substance use disorder and mental health services at all of its locations, including Freeport Community Health Center and Brazoria County Dream Center in Clute, she said.

In another effort to expand psychiatry services, the network is also using telehealth, Roznovsky said. This provides services for people who might not have transportation to a clinic, he said.

The demand for substance dependence treatment is increasing and the network is always adjusting to meet that demand, Roznovsky said.

Maddy McCarty is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0151.

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