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Arkansas opioid abatement efforts go mobile, both on wheels and via a new app

A mobile clinic devoted to treating opioid use disorder took its debut voyage to Second Baptist Church in Malvern last Monday. Its aim: to help solve Arkansas’s opioid problem by meeting addicted people living in rural communities right where they are.

“Our intention is to bring outpatient treatment options for substance use disorder directly to the communities where transportation and other factors limit access to specialized health care,” Tucker Martin said. Since 2022, he’s been the chief operating officer of River Valley Medical Wellness, an organization with offices in Hot Springs and Russellville that provide primary care, mental health care and addiction care to Arkansans. Now, he also serves as an executive board member of Arkansas Mobile Opioid Recovery, the mobile clinic’s nonprofit.

At an overdose abatement summit in November, Attorney General Tim Griffin earmarked $770,000 to create the mobile clinic, named Arkansas Mobile Opioid Recovery (ARMOR). It was spearheaded by Dr. Kristin Martin of River Valley Medical Wellness (no relation to Tucker Martin) and “will work with rural and underserved community stakeholders and law enforcement,” a release from the Attorney General’s office said, “to bring comprehensive addiction medicine directly to those who need it most.”

The $700K in funding comes from the state’s share of the opioid settlement fortune, won in litigation waged against pharmaceutical companies, drug store chains and other businesses that profited from the nation’s opioid epidemic. Around $250 million will come to Arkansas incrementally over the next decade or so. That money gets dispensed in separate buckets. One-third of the money Arkansas receives goes to state government and is distributed by the attorney general’s office. The other two-thirds is distributed by the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership, established to administer settlement money to Arkansas’s cities and counties.

The ARMOR clinic is a recovery hub on wheels, a Class A motorhome-ish structure outfitted with a nurse’s station, a bathroom and three exam rooms, one of which doubles as a laboratory where blood is drawn.

Any of those rooms can be used for a variety of consultations,” Tucker Martin said. “So you may be meeting with a medical provider to initiate buprenorphine for your opioid use disorder, you may go to another room and talk to a mental health professional and start the procesImportantly, Tucker Martin added, the clinic has a full-time peer recovery support specialist named Russell Boyd. Specialists like Boyd, Tucker said, must be someone who has lived experience with addiction and who has had at least two years of sobriety.

River Valley Medical Wellness has five such specialists on staff, licensed by the state to act as a safety net and a source of encouragement while an addicted person is navigating through long-term recovery. That could mean helping the person in recovery find employment, get a driver’s license, get a basic financial education or sign up for insurance for the first time.  s of therapy, which is an integral component of long-term recovery. Or you may have some medical needs that you need to be addressed as part of your pathway to recovery. So all of the things that we do at River Valley Medical Wellness at our brick-and-mortar clinics in Russellville, in Hot Springs, we do in a consolidated way on the armor mobile health clinic.”

As opposed to 911 or first responders, the mobile clinic isn’t a vehicle that gets dispatched to provide an emergency response to an overdose (though it can do that, too), but acts more like a pop-up at spots along the I-30 corridor and elsewhere, ideally in places where an organization already has an established relationship with unsheltered or vulnerable populations, whether that’s through a regular food pantry or another form of outreach. Plans are developing, too, to place the mobile clinic at courthouses in Morrilton and Danville where Arkansans may be appearing at drug treatment courts for opioid-related charges.

A Charlotte, North Carolina-based nonprofit called HarborPath donated “more than 1,000 units of naloxone” to RiverValley Medical Wellness, a representative from HarborPath told us, “which accounts for all of the naloxone currently stocked on the mobile health unit.” Founded in 2012, HarborPath describes itself as a “safety net” for uninsured and underserved residents, distributing naloxone and other medications to Arkansas and 23 other states in the country.

It’s not HarborPath’s first boost to addiction services in Arkansas. Last November, Griffin approved the $232,880 purchase of 5,680 Naloxone kits from the company to be distributed to Arkansas law enforcement. Funding for that purchase comes from the state’s portion of the settlement money, as does the ARMOR clinic and a $50 million investment in a new pediatric opioid research facility at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Opioid abatement efforts are going mobile in another sense, too, with a new app called ReviveAR, launched by the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership. It’s free to download, and greets phone users with a giant red button that says “REVIVE NOW” in English and Spanish, linking swiftly to a one-page opioid reversal tutorial, which you can read on the screen with accompanying illustrations or hear in audio form, hands-free.

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